The Hollywood Commission has released its final report and recommendations – lots of them – based on its groundbreaking survey of sexual harassment and discrimination in the entertainment industry, concluding that while Hollywood has made real progress towards being more diverse and inclusive, “There is much more to be done.”
“To its credit, the Hollywood community has signaled that it is moving in a new direction,” Commission chair Anita Hill wrote in an op-ed that accompanies the final report. “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. 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 final report, called “Culture & Climate,” sums up the previously published findings of a survey of more than 9,600 current and former industry workers, categorized into four broad topics: accountability, bias, sexual harassment and assault, and bullying. Each of those separate reports found that despite progress and greater awareness in recent years, several indicators of “troubling workplace attitudes and behaviors” still persist.
See the full report here.
The final report found that:
• Despite perceived progress, the entertainment industry has a permissive climate toward sexual harassment: Workers don’t believe powerful harassers will be held accountable or that their reports will be taken seriously, and they view reporting as risky.
• Despite widespread antidiscrimination statements and policies, gender diversity targets, and unconscious bias training, most workers don’t think the industry values diversity, inclusion, or respect. These perceptions and findings were largely consistent across all areas of work, with those working in corporate settings having a dimmer view of these values than those working in television and film.
• Despite awareness of unacceptable workplace behaviors, workers reported disappointingly high rates of bias, bullying, and sexual harassment. Few reported these behaviors to their employer. Many experienced retaliation.
But there are “signs of progress in the entertainment industry as well,” the report found. “Since #MeToo, workers in our sample saw moderate to much progress in preventing harassment (69%) and in welcoming and valuing diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives (68%).
Going forward, the final report makes numerous recommendations to the industry, in varying degrees of specificity, on everything from best practices for a harassment-free workplace, to accountability for bullies and sexual harassers. Generally, it wants to help workers and companies by creating a corporate culture committed to the transparent reporting and investigating of complaints to “ensure that a commitment to diversity is embraced and modeled throughout the organization, particularly at the highest levels.”
There are even content recommendations, such as: “Reject storylines that are inconsistent with values and contribute to stereotypes and sexual harassment – those in which women are overly sexualized; men get women drunk to get lucky; and Black men are violent, menacing, or dangerous.” And “to sustain innovation and grow creativity, diversity as a value must be evident in the industry’s operations – in its decision making and decision makers – and content.”
As part of its policies and practices, the Commission also said that it will “Establish model best practice standards for hiring, promotion, and retention of diverse workforces,” and “Offer programming on accuracy in diverse content and portrayal of underrepresented groups historically and today.”
Formed in December 2017in 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, as well as the film and TV academies. Its impetus came from Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who was joined in forming the Commission by entertainment attorney Nina Shaw, Nike Foundation founder and co-chair Maria Eitel, and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein.
“The Path Forward” section of the report offers five general recommendations. “Industry organizations are making progress by adopting measures to address the significant culture and climate issues of harassment and discrimination. But there is much more to be done. Building on the gains we’ve made together, we recommend that entertainment organizations take the following measures:
1. Affirm a commitment to respect, human dignity, and inclusion
Culture starts with shared values. Industry workers want to inhabit environments that put a premium on respect, human dignity, and inclusion. This must include a commitment to the principle that all employees deserve to be respected, regardless of personal characteristics like race, religion, national origin, sex or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability.
Further, these values must be articulated and affirmed by leadership. Managers at every level must explicitly and visibly value a workplace free of harassment, ensure that harassing and gateway behaviors are prohibited as a matter of policy, and that all workers feel safe in reporting harassing behavior.
Additionally, organizations must put systems in place that hold violators accountable for their actions and take appropriate responses when violations occur. Organization leaders must be held responsible, through the use of metrics and performance reviews, for monitoring and stopping harassment by those they supervise and manage.
2. Embrace diversity
Diversity and inclusion, in both storytelling and entertainment corporate structures, are essential to an industry that prides itself on innovation and creativity and takes seriously its role as a global influencer. Organizational systems that reflect the value of and support diversity and inclusion are more creative, better at problem-solving, more capable of responding to the demands of today’s entertainment consumers, and more successful at preventing sexual harassment.
Representation alone does not ensure inclusion. Underrepresented groups often feel marginalized at work by an environment that doesn’t value them, lacks interest or empathy, and fails to make change. The real aim should be for leaders to create a culture that values, rewards, and supports individual differences.
3. Align systems to values
A strong majority of workers said that, through their workplace, they were made aware of unacceptable behaviors in the workplace (76%), how to share concerns (68%), and diversity and inclusion initiatives (66%). Fewer were aware of the process that takes place if they shared concerns (58%) or what retaliation is and what can be done if they observed or experienced retaliation (59%). Given these findings, it was not surprising that 95% of workers said resources to help individuals understand reporting options would be useful. Few workers reported the most serious misconduct they experienced to their employer—for example, only one out of 10 reported to human resources. Approximately two-fifths (41%) indicated they experienced some type of retaliation, regardless of whether they reported it.
4. Anchor efforts to prevention
Compliance with legal requirements for policy, training, and grievance procedures is not sufficient to prevent harassment and discrimination. Harassment training that focuses on forbidden behaviors—which is often required by state legislation—does not reduce harassment. Legalistic grievance procedures backfire and often lead to retaliation.
5. Ensure accountability for policy violations, regardless of seniority or performance.
Only 35% of our respondents thought it was “very” or “somewhat likely” that a powerful harasser would be held accountable for harassing someone with less authority or status, such as an assistant; only 7% thought it was “very likely.”
The report also makes more than a dozen other more specific Industry Recommendations, ranging from anti-bias training programs and mentorships, to the hiring of ombudspersons and the limiting of confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements.
1. Review employment policies and procedures to ensure that individuals from underrepresented groups are being fairly included in searches and considered for promotions and leadership roles.
2. Create performance evaluations that assess managers’ progress in addressing bias and fostering diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and, where appropriate to the position, in content.
3. Support mentorship, sponsorship, and career-coaching programs within organizations or through third parties.
4. To foster shared awareness, invest in implicit bias training programs that empower bystanders and address hostile workplace behavior, including micro-aggressions, as well as violations of hiring and promotion standards.
5. Align creative content and organization operations with values. To sustain innovation and grow creativity, diversity as a value must be evident in the industry’s operations – in its decision making and decision makers – and content.
• Organizations should know what their content is about and see that it reflects values. Storytelling is powerful, and the evidence is clear that it contributes to our collective perceptions of each other and the society we aspire to be.
• Reject storylines that are inconsistent with values and contribute to stereotypes and sexual harassment—those in which women are overly sexualized; men get women drunk to get lucky; and Black men are violent, menacing, or dangerous. Further, ensure that a commitment to diversity is embraced and modeled throughout the organization, particularly at the highest levels.
6. Address behavior that contributes to discrimination and harassment, including micro-aggressions, bullying, bias, and abuse of power. Respectful behavior is particularly important in preventing sexual harassment because such harassment—especially gender harassment—often takes place against a backdrop of incivility or an environment of generalized disrespect. 9 Developing and disseminating clear policies that align to shared values of respect, human dignity, and diversity is crucial to ensuring the community knows what kinds of behavior are unacceptable. Create effective training concerning the continuum of behaviors.
7. Provide transparency into reporting, complaint processes, and investigations. Reporting and findings should be clearly stated, available to the reporter before reporting, and trauma-informed.
• Develop a range of methods for reporting harassment, discrimination, or misconduct that include multiple points of contact at different organizational levels and in different geographic workplaces. Provide anonymous reporting options.
• Broadly disseminate and communicate this information. At any location where business is conducted on behalf of a film, television or web-based project, including production offices, home offices, and casting locations, organizations should display in key areas on set (e.g., in an entry to an office, in an entry to a set, or in craft services) documents, notices, or posters detailing workers’ rights; the organization’s code of conduct, human-resources reporting instructions, and contact information; and an outline of the reporting process. Details on how to obtain digital versions of this information should be included on each day’s call-sheet notes section. Reporting information should also be included on each day’s call-sheet notes.
8. Address the most common form of sexual harassment: gender harassment. There are three types of sexually harassing behavior: gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual attention. The overwhelming majority of sexually harassing conduct described in the survey involved some form of gender harassment. Examples included sexist conduct (for instance, contemptuous comments about women or insults of men who are gay or petite) and sexually crude conduct (references to women as “bitches” or “whores”). Findings also showed there was little difference based on gender identity: 67% of females and 62% of males reported gender harassment during the 12 months before the survey. Unwanted sexual attention was the next most common form of sexual harassment (42% of females and 22% of males), followed by sexual coercion (20% of females and 9% of males) and sexual assault (5% of females and 2% of males).
9. Prohibit bullying. In both production and corporate settings, workplace bullying is one of the most-reported types of misconduct. The keys to ending it are accountability and awareness. However, bullying remains one of the least-understood behaviors—what it is, what it isn’t, and how to manage it. These challenges—and the need to address them authentically and comprehensively— are magnified by stressors unique to the production context.
10. Invest in bystander intervention training. Although harassment training that focuses solely on prohibited behaviors is not demonstrably effective, other promising approaches are available, particularly those that engage managers and others as part of the solution. Specifically, bystander intervention training helps individuals spot problem behaviors like gender and sexual harassment, implicit bias, and bullying; intervene; and prevent situations from escalating.
11. Create an ombuds office. Having an entity that sits outside the organizational chain of command and works independently to resolve complaints can help reduce offenses and provide the kind of informal problem-solving that workers want and need. An ombuds system is informal, neutral, and truly confidential – only the ombuds officer needs to know of the complaint. This approach has two advantages over the current system: It allows accusers to determine whether to make their complaints known to the accused, and it avoids legalistic hearings entirely
12. Implement consistent standards for holding all offenders accountable, regardless of position. Make clear that everyone will be held accountable for violating company or organizational policies on harassment. This can be achieved by clearly stating the range of disciplinary consequences for violators and defining the procedures and time frames for each stage of the process (for instance, reporting, investigation, and adjudication).
• Limit confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements. Confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements often shield perpetrators who have harassed people repeatedly. For example, while only 5% of the survey sample had been asked to sign a nondisclosure or a similar agreement, that percentage jumped to 27% of those who reported sexual assault as their worst experience. This failure also perpetuates retaliation— one of the biggest reasons people don’t report. Confidentiality in settlement agreements should be limited to prevent offenders from moving to another employer for purposes of concealing past discipline or discharge.
• Limit “for-cause” clauses. Executive agreements often require policy violations to be willful or material, yet for less-senior employees any violation of policy can be grounds for dismissal. In addition, it is often easier, quicker, and cheaper for an employer to terminate and pay out an individual than to try to demonstrate cause.
13. Publish reports. Be transparent about what happens when reports are formally filed and when people are found to have violated policy. Demonstrating that policy violations will be investigated and that perpetrators will be held accountable within a reasonable time frame helps employees understand that an institution will not tolerate violations. This goes beyond having a policy— it requires showing that the institution is following through. Organizations can, without disclosing protected information, regularly communicate to employees how many reports are being investigated and what, generally, the outcomes are.
14. Incorporate values throughout the supply chain. This could include writing protections into contracts with third-party productions, vendors, and others who come into contact with employees. For example, NBCUniversal has extended its antidiscrimination and harassment workplace policies to apply to outside productions. It could also include implementing inclusion requirements, as AMPAS has done or putting casting incentives in place as SAG-AFTRA has done.
But the Commission is doing more than recommending. Based in part on the findings of its survey, it’s also launched several new resources for the industry, including a platform for victims of harassment and bias to report repeat offenders, a pilot ombuds program for independent production companies, and bystander intervention training.
1. Bystander Intervention Training: Over two-third (69%) of respondents who indicated the most serious experience they had was bullying said bystanders were present during the incident. The Hollywood Commission conducted bystander training with entertainment workers to address harassment and bullying. It included a virtual reality training, a web-based training, and six workshops tailored to the entertainment industry—two for television supervisors (directors, producers, and showrunners), two for film supervisors (directors, producers, and unit production managers), one for casting directors, and one for production workers. Bystander intervention training teaches employees how to identify bullying or aggressive behaviors. Employees learn ways to support a victim of bullying and are empowered to intervene when appropriate. Equipping employees with the tools to intervene creates a sense of shared responsibility to keep negative conduct in the workplace from being normalized.
2. Code of conduct: This policy for creating safe, equitable, and harassment-free workplaces reflects feedback from workers and contributions from industry organizations. It includes definitions and examples of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment (including gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, sexual coercion, and sexual assault), and bullying specific to the entertainment industry, as well as reporting policies and procedures.
3. Production field manual: This document sets forth best practices and includes an employer checklist, tips, and sample policies for workplace meetings, social media, alcohol and drugs, and a vendor code of conduct, along with recommendations that employers implement: Transparent complaint processes and investigations; both informal and formal ways to raise concerns and make reports; multiple reporting paths, and consistent standards for holding all offenders accountable, regardless of position.
4. Workers online guide to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation Based on worker feedback, this online tool will allow workers to learn about their rights, how and where to report, and what resources and support are available to them, including counseling and legal resources.
5. Ombuds: A pilot program with tEQuitable, an independent, confidential platform, was launched to help companies address issues of bias, discrimination, and harassment before they escalate, as a free resource for independent production companies.
6. Reporting platform: Multiple complaints about the same person are common. Research tells us that individuals who act in an abusive and/or aggressive way are likely to do so more than once. The Commission gathered individuals throughout the industry to review technology that allows repeat-offender identification tailored to the entertainment industry. This new platform will launch in beta in the first quarter of 2021, with participating organizations announced at a later date. The platform gives workers who feel they have experienced sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, bullying, or micro-aggressions the ability to share it anonymously. Workers may choose to report immediately or to file a conditional report. If a worker makes a conditional report, if (and only if) other people in the organization also file complaints about the same aggressor, they will be notified and can decide whether to release their identity and participate in an investigation. Other components of the platform include two-way anonymous messaging, which workers can use to raise concerns and ask questions about the process, and instructions on how to create a time-stamped record.
The Commission says its mission is to “lead the entertainment industry to a strong and equitable future by defining and implementing best practices that eliminate sexual harassment and bias for all workers, especially marginalized communities, and actively promote a culture of accountability, respect, and equality.”