When you listen to the Divine, you will be in perfect sync with the idea for whose time has come, and you’ll be at the forefront of the movement.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing M. Reese Everson, Esq.
After completing law school, and operating her own firm in Chicago, Illinois, M. Reese Everson’s proven legal expertise propelled her to be chosen to serve as legislative staff to some of the most senior elected members of the United States Congress. It was there that she realized a need, and set out to fill it. Having been targeted by sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination on Capitol Hill, Reese realized that young women often lack the tools for successfully navigating sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. Further, there were few support systems and safe spaces one could go to seek guidance without the fear of retaliation. Reese decided to create a manual for young women in the workplace to address sexual harassment while maintaining their integrity, entitled “The B.A.B.E.’s Guide to Winning in the Workplace: You Don’t Have to Compromise”and is working to create a digital safe space to provide women with a support system and resources, the B.A.B.E.S App.
M. Reese Everson is now a tireless advocate for young women, committed to helping them to find their voice and showing them how walk in their purpose, uncompromised. While serving as Advocate in Chief, she travels the globe as a Sexual Harassment Expert and Advocate, Workplace Integrity Engineer, Amazon Best Selling author, and speaker. Reese works to advocate for removing discrimination and harmful biases in the workplace that can be very problematic, specifically for women of color. She is the Founder of B.A.B.E.S in the Workplace which provides peer-advocates for women dealing with sexual harassment and gender discrimination in universities and workplaces across the U.S. She also founded the B.A.B.E.S in the Workplace Foundation to provide economic resources for women devastated by sexual harassment and entrepreneurship training for K-8 students. She is also the Director of MRE Business Solutions, a company that trains global companies on how to address sexual harassment, unconscious biases, wage gap disparity and gender discrimination.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, lived with my grandparents in a devout Christian home. My grandparents owned businesses, invested in real estate and believed in self-determination, being debt free, having multiple streams of income and traveling to expand one’s horizons. I had my first passport at 18 months and traveled the world with my grandmother.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?
Growing up, I recall being profoundly saddened by Maya Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,which detailed her experience of being raped at a very young age and how it silenced her because when she spoke up, her rapist was killed. After I was sexually harassed by the Congressman, I reflected on how Maya Angelou felt a sense of protectionist obligation (similar to Stockholm syndrome) for the person who had violated her. Even though he violated her, she did not want him to be murdered on her account. Even as a violated woman, my desire was to never see the Congressman’s career or reputation harmed, and there was a sense of shame for even speaking up in defense of myself. It made me realize that little brown girls are often taught that somehow, they don’t deserve to be protected from sexual violence. I realized that this same sentiment that Maya Angelou had, this same guilt, this same protectionism of the man who violated me, was based in my self-worth, or lack thereof.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?
At 25, I moved to Washington, DC to work on Capitol Hill. While working for a Senior Congressman, he began sexually harassing me. I attempted to escape the situation by transferring to another office and asking for help but my request fell on deaf ears. I realized after being wrongfully terminated, and blackballed that young women needed tools to address sexual harassment in the workplace, tools based in maintaining their integrity.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
My goal in writing The B.A.B.E.’S Guide to Winning in the Workplace: You Don’t Have to Compromisewas to provide young women with tools for addressing sexual harassment so that they would be prepared when faced with sexual harassment, gender discrimination and bullying in the workplace. My desire was to see young women so prepared for these issues that they altogether avoided experiencing the trauma that I did.
Did the actual results align with your expectations?
Many young women who speak to me about their experience explain that they are grateful for my book because they didn’t know what to do or who to turn with. So the B.A.B.E.’S Guideis able to provide women with help in real time because it has an appendix with steps women can take when they are presently being targeted by sexual harassment. Moreover, the book defines sexual harassment and helps young women to know what it looks like so they can readily identify it. I believe very few women truly understand all the ways in which sexual harassment can manifest itseltf, so the first step is helping women to understand what the issue can look like, and then providing tools on how to address it.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?
I knew that my book had started to shed light on issues on Capitol Hill and was a large part of the sexual harassment in the workplace discussions that women were flagging as #MeToo when the Harry Weinstein case was publicized, I knew that women on Capitol Hill would be next. When Congresswoman Jackie Speier discussed my experience during a Congressional Hearing on Sexual Harassment of Congressional Staff, I was floored. That moment made me very grateful that I had gone against the suggestions in 2014 that I write a “feel good” women’s empowerment book. I stuck to my guns in deciding to write about a “taboo” topic back years before #MeToo surfaced.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
Readers typically celebrated that I transformed how they viewed themselves, as a precursor to addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Then and now, they appreciate my candor about giving in to sexual harassment in one instance and that providing me with the strength to say no in future incidents. I’m told my transparency is refreshing, because few people would be willing to share such a personal low faith moment.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?
While speaking on a college campus, I had a young woman confide in me that she had recently been the target of sexual violence and had never told anyone, but thanks to my encouragement of women to speak truth about your trauma, she was ready to seek help. Being able to affirm a young woman during her time of grief was the moment that I realized I was walking in my divine purpose.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
Because my book spoke up regarding the actions of very powerful people who are sitting Members of Congress, I have been retaliated against, intimidated, and uninvited from speaking engagements, among other things. However the price of change is well worth it! Power cedes nothing without a demand. If my book can prevent one young lady from experiencing what I did, then its well worth it. I want my daughters to be able to take an internship on Capitol Hill without fear that predators will treat them the way I’ve been treated.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Books have the power to create a movement because the inspiration for books come from the mind of God (Source). And because the thoughts are given to you by God (Source), similar thought are given to all who are willingly to stand up and lead the movement or revolution. In order to lead, you have to listen to the still small voice telling you what to write and how to share it with the world. When you listen to the Divine, you will be in perfect sync with the idea for whose time has come, and you’ll be at the forefront of the movement.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
I believe my fearlessness and willingness to put myself out there, contributed the most to me being a best-selling author. I would find out about events where books would be sold and show up with my book in hand, asking if I could be featured in the bookstore. I never got a no.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?
I learned that when editing, it is unwise to shoulder more weight than you need to. Its ok to ask for help, get beta readers, and take your book to student groups and ask them to read it.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?
The book must be written to help others address an issue.
The book must provide tools or resources not widely available or known.
The book should be easy to read for a variety of audiences/age ranges.
The book should make people see themselves in a light they’ve never seen themselves before.
The book should show how your tools were used by yourself or others to overcome a challenge.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?
The next phase of this movement will include women not just coming forward to stand in their truths, but also to work on collectively healing the trauma and erasing the shame. It is critical that we send women back into the workforce as healed and whole beings. Furthermore, I look forward to us building a proper support system and changing laws to prevent this breeding ground from existing again.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.