EXCLUSIVE: Anita Hill, chair of The Hollywood Commission, is praising the entertainment industry for embracing its role as a “world influencer” in advancing diversity and inclusion, but says that Hollywood can and must do better. “To its credit, the Hollywood community has signaled that it is moving in a new direction,” she writes in an op-ed that will be released later Tuesday to accompany the commission’s final report on its survey of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bias in the entertainment industry.
“The pace of progress and the re-imagining of our workplace puts inclusivity in the spotlight and gives entertainment an auspicious opportunity to reshape itself with diversity and inclusion firmly at the center of its business model, decision making, strategies, operations, and output,” she writes in the op-ed (read it exclusively below). “Now is the time to recommit to diversity and inclusion as a business imperative, a social mandate, and a safeguard against future crisis. Put simply, it is the right thing to do.”
The commission’s four-part survey of more than 9,600 current and former industry workers found that women are “roughly twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience every form of biased or unfair behavior”; that women are twice as likely as men to report experiencing abusive workplace conduct; and that one in 20 industry women said they were sexually assaulted on the job in just the 12 months prior to taking the groundbreaking survey.
With the pandemic still raging, “The work the Hollywood Commission has done to date prepares us well for this moment of reckoning,” Hill writes. “In the past three years, the entertainment industry, as an unprecedented collective body, has come together to meaningfully tackle the scourge of sexual harassment.”
“The same intent, resolve, exigency, and creativity that will soon deliver a safe, effective Covid vaccine can help eradicate the parallel plagues of racism and sexism,” she concludes. “Hollywood was born of innovation. It can be rebuilt by it, too.”
Formed in December 2017 in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the commission is made up of representatives from the major studios, networks, talent agencies, record labels, unions and guilds, and the film and TV academies. Its impetus came from Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who was joined in forming the commission by Nike Foundation founder and co-chair Maria Eitel, entertainment attorney Nina Shaw, and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein.
Here’s the full text of Hill’s op-ed:
This final report of The Hollywood Survey lands at the end of an unprecedented year, not just for the entertainment industry but for the United States as a whole. Black and Hispanic Americans are dying at greater rates from Covid-19 than the general population. Women of all races are bearing a disproportionate burden of the pandemic’s economic and social fallout.
In the midst of any global health crisis, racism and sexism flourish. Hate-crime violence and anti-Semitic acts reached an all-time high in 2020. In 2020, the Human Rights Campaign found that Black and Latinx trans women were the victims of as many as half of all violent deaths, in what is the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States.
This year, Hollywood leadership embraced entertainment’s role as a world influencer, realizing that global and industry conditions demanded better choices. With ingenuity, determination, and innovation, Hollywood has risen to the complex challenges posed by Covid-19. Industry interests across labor and management upended long-held ways of doing business in Hollywood and precipitated a reinvention of the business from the ground up in response to the health crisis. Moved by the deep disparities revealed by the pandemic, widespread antiracism protests, and the pleas of entertainment workers of color for meaningful representation, the entertainment industry welcomed new storylines and voices, and pioneered new ways to create content.
Hollywood can now harness this same urgency, decisiveness, and boldness to ensure that collaboration, diversity, and inclusion remain central to our industry’s workings and culture. Unfortunately, a majority of workers today do not believe that Hollywood has a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion as a core value. Just 49% believe that Hollywood welcomes and values diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, and only 39% believe that Hollywood acknowledges and respects the dignity, unique perspectives, and experiences of every person.
With the financial pressures that Covid-19 has wrought, many companies have chosen to divest in this area. Indeed, McKinsey reported that 27% of organizations have put all or most of their diversity initiatives on hold because of the pandemic.
But the entertainment industry has every reason to do better. The business case for diversity and inclusion is well-established: Diverse companies consistently out-earn nondiverse companies. Diverse and inclusive companies are also more innovative and agile, and weather crisis more effectively. Unsurprisingly, cultures that are inclusive are less likely to experience sexual harassment. Now is the time to recommit to diversity and inclusion as a business imperative, a social mandate, and a safeguard against future crisis. Put simply, it is the right thing to do.
The work the Hollywood Commission has done to date prepares us well for this moment of reckoning. In the past three years, the entertainment industry as an unprecedented collective body has come together to meaningfully tackle the scourge of sexual harassment. We are launching a reporting system that helps to identify repeat offenders across the industry; have created a bystander training program to engage the entire workforce in addressing workplace abuses; and will publish a best-practices conduct policy, a production field guide, and an online workers’ guide to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
We have truly started to create an infrastructure for change. But systems do not work without the culture and values to support them. According to scientific research, organizational tolerance is the single most powerful factor in determining whether serial harassment will occur. This means that our collective efforts toward safe and equitable workplaces depend on creating a truly diverse and inclusive culture.
The lesson of 2020 is that better outcomes for the future require even more change. The skills necessary for the future and how we recruit for them; the way we organize ourselves as businesses; where and how we work; the policies, processes, and protocols that we’ve relied upon; and the way we interact across teams and cultures are in a state of disruption.
The pace of progress and the re-imagining of our workplace puts inclusivity in the spotlight and gives entertainment an auspicious opportunity to reshape itself with diversity and inclusion firmly at the center of its business model, decision making, strategies, operations, and output. To its credit, the Hollywood community has signaled that it is moving in a new direction. Among other announcements:
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has rolled out representation and inclusion standards for the Oscars.
- ViacomCBS established the First Time Directors program, aimed at increasing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and female representation in films; CBS committed a minimum 25% of the network’s annual development budget to projects from BIPOC creators and established a target for its writers’ rooms to be staffed with a minimum of 50% BIPOC representation by 2022-2023 broadcast season.
- WME and Endeavor Content are implementing a series of more than thirty actions based on the launch of a new initiative led by Michael B. Jordan and Color of Change.
- Netflix promised to deposit $100 million in Black-owned financial institutions.
Change is the sum of our collective efforts. We applaud, encourage, and want to amplify these endeavors. But there is far more to do to enshrine diversity and inclusion in the industry’s value system and to bridge the divide between leadership’s intentions and the everyday experience of workers in Hollywood.
The same intent, resolve, exigency, and creativity that will soon deliver a safe, effective Covid vaccine can help eradicate the parallel plagues of racism and sexism. Hollywood was born of innovation. It can be rebuilt by it, too.