The Anita Hill-led Hollywood Commission released new data on Friday from its recent survey of entertainment industry workers showing “pervasive issues of toxic workplaces, bullying and abuse in entertainment” and highlighting “the dire situation among the industry’s assistants and production workers.”
“Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin may have been the most boldface examples of abuse of power in Hollywood, but they are not outliers,” said Hill, who chairs the commission. “Hollywood has systematically recruited and mistreated a vulnerable class of workers out in the open, in the name of ‘paying dues.’ For there to be real and lasting culture change across Hollywood’s businesses and ranks, then it can no longer ignore how its entry-level employees are hired and treated and must provide the training, resources and modeling necessary to stop the cycles of abuse and retaliation, full-stop.”
The commission’s report found that “Nowhere in Hollywood is the stark power differential more visible than between executives and their assistants. That dynamic drives higher levels of abuse among assistants across all kinds of entertainment work.”
Key findings of the report, which was based on a survey of 9,630 people who self-identified that they were currently working, pursuing work, or had previously worked in the entertainment industry, include:
- Assistants across all areas of work (production assistant, writer’s room, corporate, personal and composer assistants) are two to three times more likely to report experiencing bullying than other types of workers than the overall sample
- The majority of assistants identified as female (73%) and of those females, 99% were under the age of 40. Among this population, the reported rates of abuse were staggeringly high: roughly two to three times higher than the overall sample
- The most common forms of abuse assistants endured (often or very often) were: excessively harsh criticism (1 in 5); insults, sarcasm or other gestures to humiliate (1 in 4); and yelled at when angry (1 in 4)
Within talent representation, higher proportions of females and younger workers responded. Consistent with the high rates of bullying reported by assistants, this group of younger and female workers reported alarmingly high rates of bullying behavior (often + very often):
- 14% reported excessively harsh criticism
- 17% reported the use of insults, sarcasm, or other gestures to humiliate
- 16% reported being yelled at when they were angry
- 2% reported physically aggressive behavior, like throwing something
- 8% reported being sworn at in a hostile manner.
With 65% of those working on television and film production reporting at least one bullying behavior, those environments are also rife with abuse, specifically:
- In television and film production, non-union members who lack access to union protections were twice as likely to report experiencing bullying behaviors than union members
- In an environment where people place a high value on status in group settings, those identifying as females in IATSE aged 24-29 were nearly 5 times as likely to report bullying behaviors than males in PGA aged 50-64
The commission’s recommendations to the industry include:
- Prohibit and define bullying in clear terms that do not require the employer to demonstrate the intent of the abuser
- Establish policies and processes to address bullying complaints
- Terminate employees who engage in any form of retaliation, including threatening or refusing to hire someone who raises concerns about bullying
- Pay assistants a living wage so that industry isn’t privileging those who can afford to live in LA or have been to afford unpaid internships
- Develop diverse recruiting relationships and establish talent pipelines with diverse colleges and universities. Stop only recruiting from Ivy League into mailrooms
- Create clear definitions of professional and personal assistants
- Provide actual training in entry-level training programs (versus mailroom hazing; paying your dues)
PANELS & WORKSHOPS
The commission will also host a series of panels and workshops dealing with bullying in the entertainment industry.
Panel Discussion: Power, Bullying and Toxic Workplaces in Hollywood – May 20
Moderated Lauren Rikleen, president and founder of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, this panel will focus on the culture of workplace abuse in Hollywood and how all workers can contribute to creating equitable, fair and safe workplaces. Panelists include director Steven Soderbergh; producer Amy Baer; writer Liz Alper, who founded #PayUpHollywood, and Andrew Coles, CEO of The Mission Entertainment.
You can register here.
Creating Cultures of Respect – May 25 & 27
Moderated by Rikleen, this program will focus on understanding how workplace cultures and related policies and practices can foster environments that tolerate bullying behaviors and sexual harassment, and explore how power dynamics permeate workplace cultures and create conditions that allow unchecked negative behaviors to escalate over time.
Bystander Intervention Workshops – May 26, 27 & 28
These workshops will provide bystander intervention training on how to identify bullying, sexual harassment or other unwelcome behavior, and explore strategies to support victims and to intervene when appropriate.
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