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After missteps, Ashley Judd says Time's Up is ready to 'get it right'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum four years ago, a new organization called Time's Up formed. It promised to push for changes that would protect working women in every industry. The group established a legal defense fund and raised tens of millions of dollars through GoFundMe. Now Time's Up is in crisis. Two of its leaders resigned after it was revealed that they helped cover up sexual assault allegations against Andrew Cuomo. Staff complained about a lack of pay transparency and HR protections, some of the very problems Time's Up was designed to address. And last week, nearly all of the workforce was laid off. The organization has been undergoing an independent review and released an initial report about those findings. Ashley Judd is one of four board members who have stayed on to oversee what comes next, and she joins us now.

Welcome.

ASHLEY JUDD: Thank you so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: Time's Up is calling this a reset. It could also be described as an implosion.

JUDD: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: What was the problem that you believe will be solved by laying off nearly everyone on staff?

JUDD: We have released our report. It's on our website. Everyone is welcome to go and see for themselves what our internal challenges were and the operational shortcomings about which we're being fully transparent, because that is exactly the kind of accountability that we demand of other organizations. We as a board didn't have some guardrails in place that were very important. As you noted, there were some internal communication challenges. And Time's Up mandate, its singleness of purpose was always very clear to the board - fair, safe and equitable workplaces for women of all kinds, ending male impunity in the workplace, male entitlement to female bodies and the ecosystems that enable them.

SHAPIRO: If I may jump in, you refer to women of all kinds. And the organization has, from the beginning, been established by powerful people in politics and Hollywood. It cultivated powerful allies in those circles, and that led to some conflicts. And so going forward, do you think that Time's Up can both cultivate those powerful allies and respond to allegations that sometimes involve those allies without fear or favor?

JUDD: In our next iteration, we will absolutely fold in the voices of our critics, and we have listened acutely to them and with consideration and without defensiveness.

SHAPIRO: But just to raise one specific criticism along this point, I mean, employees told the consultant who did this investigation that Time's Up status as a well-connected organization was a weakness and that the world needed an organization that was not engaged in or beholden to politics. You are a well-connected person. You're a movie star, Ashley Judd. Do you agree with the assessment that it is a fundamental structural problem of the organization that it is built by and connected to people in positions of power?

JUDD: Well, I would point out, Ari, that Time's Up had phenomenal successes in addition to its - to some members' connection through the corridors of power. And Time's Up was also comprised of survivors. I was sexually harassed for the first time when I was 15 years old. We are not a monolith as an organization. And, you know, we're very transparent about the shortcomings, and we're very determined in our reset to do better and to get it right. And we are here to serve women who are currently experiencing sexual harassment, bias, discrimination and assault in the workplace. We know that we made missteps. And our reset, which is not a retreat, will be different. That much I can assure you.

SHAPIRO: Can you say what it will look like? I mean, you said it will be different. You said it will be inclusive. Do you have an image of what the new mission statement will be, what the new makeup of the board will be? Can you paint a picture for us of what the next chapter will look like?

JUDD: I've got a big smile on my face because I know it's so frustrating not to disclose that. I can just assure everyone. You know, it's very hard in this day and age to - just to trust, especially when we've made mistakes. But we're accountable. We're transparent. And women and society and workplaces need Time's Up, and we are here to serve. You know, we are an intergenerational torch that is going to burn brighter, and we're going to pass it on until the need for Time's Up becomes obsolete.

SHAPIRO: Well, you say the need for Time's Up is clear. I think the need for an organization doing this work is clear, but there are certainly critics who say this particular organization has proven itself to be unsuccessful and the mission should be carried on by someone else, by something else. What do you say to that?

JUDD: I say that our next iteration is inventive and contemporary and that we're here to learn from our mistakes and that, you know, that if we were a men's organization, people wouldn't be saying this to us.

SHAPIRO: Do you fear that this organization, which was created to build on the #MeToo movement, may have actually damaged it by making so many missteps over the last few years?

JUDD: I think we have accomplished so much that is sidelined at the moment because we're in the Niagara Falls of the report. We have - we as ourselves, the campaign that centers Black survivors and their experiences. On my union card, I can look, and right there has the sexual harassment hotline. And when I go to my home page, which I did in previous years when I was sexually harassed on set and there was no community to support me, there's all - the definition of sexual harassment, where to go, what to do. And when I go on audition, I can take someone with me. There are no more auditions in hotel rooms and no auditions before and after standard work hours.

Things have changed. We had organizational flaws, and we made mistakes. We're accountable. We're transparent. We are resetting. We are not retreating, and we are here. We have a vision. We are capable of fulfilling it.

SHAPIRO: You are saying to donors, to victims who may come forward in the future, to potential future employees, trust us; we'll be better. Why should they?

JUDD: Isn't that the very nature of trust, Ari?

SHAPIRO: There is a track record now. I mean, there is a track record.

JUDD: And there's a track record of great success with Time's Up as well. I mean, the legislation in New York, increasing the statute of limitations for sexual assault and rape survivors, the legislation that's been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives - Time's Up had a crucial role in that - and our work calculating the economic losses for women and their salaries and to their businesses when they are sexually harassed. Those are invisible triumphs of Time's Up. And negative news, you know, is what leads. And I don't expect people to be aware of our successes, but they are there. And that's why we have faith in ourselves.

And, I mean, I'm not here to waste my time. There are other things I could be doing. But I am still here because of our vision and because of my commitment, both as a survivor, and because of my - I mean, this is the hill on which I'm willing to die. And I'm not doing it because I'm stupid. And I know that I do it at reputational risk.

SHAPIRO: Ashley Judd is an actor and board member of Time's Up.

Thank you for speaking with us today.

JUDD: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.