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Entire entertainment industry is complicit in Weinstein scandal

This week’s heart-stopping New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow and the earlier revelations, exposed thanks to the dogged reporting of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times that Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential figures, has sexually harassed and assaulted women for decades paints a picture not just of predatory behavior by a powerful, vindictive mogul, but of an entire universe of enablers who were complicit in his crimes.

The revelations have sent shock waves throughout Hollywood and led to Weinstein’s ouster last weekend. It seems every hour another woman steps forward to tell her tale of horror and more revelations are likely to come.

But what stands out, which no one should lose sight of, is that in addition to his appalling, criminal behavior, a long, long list of men and women who worked for and around him seem to have participated in both the crimes and the cover up.

And studios have systematically excluded women from positions of power and influence. One can only wonder, is the whole industry complicit?

The flagrancy with which Weinstein abused power to exploit women is just one piece of a larger system that has ignored women for decades and continues to do so.

Hollywood remains stubbornly unwilling to face and address the all-pervasive bias and exclusion of women. What’s worse, studios like Weinstein’s have never been held to any kind of account. There seem to have been a steady stream of people, from assistants to lawyers to actors, willing to enable his behavior.

From the New Yorker article, we learned that at least one woman brought her complaints to the HR team at the Weinstein company. And what of the attorneys who willingly paid off and silenced women?

This to say nothing of the board members who have completely shirked their fiduciary duty in allowing this behavior and the subsequent payoffs and silencing campaigns to continue? Actress Rose McGowan has called on the entire Weinstein board to resign. It’s a start.

The story of Weinstein’s abuse is shocking and explosive because of his fame and visibility. But most Americans don’t realize how truly awful the film industry has been in terms of its treatment of women generally. After all, “Wonder Woman,” “Hidden Figures,” and shows like “Girls,” and of course Shondaland, have all been wildly successful, so it’s easy to get the impression that there are plenty of opportunities for women.

Not so. UCLA’s Annenberg School has been tracking diversity in Hollywood over the last 10 years and found that in that time, there has been almost no increase in the opportunities granted to women in front of or behind the camera.

In fact, of the 900 films they tracked in the report, only 30% of all speaking roles went to women, and women made up only about 4% of directors and 13% of writers.

And it’s not just that women can’t get good jobs in the industry. The report finds that the sexualization of women in film is all-pervasive. In one sobering note the authors offer data that shows that “13-20-year-old females (in film) are just as likely as 21-39-year-old females to be shown in sexy attire with some nudity, and referenced as attractive.” Gross.

The Hollywood gender diversity problem has been so significant for so long, it has led to an EEOC investigation of the industry. Many movie studios are said to be in talks to settle the discrimination claims being investigated.

And then let’s look at the few roles and story lines that do exist for women. The list of recent movies and TV shows that use violence against women as a plot line is longer than I have space to list. Show after show after show features rape and violence against women as part of the narrative. Those story lines are so common we barely notice them anymore.

It’s not an accident that women like Reese Witherspoon have started their own production companies in order to produce quality content that features them, or that so many Hollywood women have had to do just that to even be taken seriously by the industry.

Geena Davis has been hammering away at the Hollywood gender diversity issue for years through her See Jane initiative. Last year, my friend Alysia Reiner made a groundbreaking film called “Equity.” It was the first female-driven Wall Street movie ever made and it was directed, written and financed entirely by women. It stands out, even now, because it’s so incredibly unusual.

Hollywood is a business but unlike other businesses, entertainment executives have not made nearly enough effort to publically or powerfully address the diversity problem the industry perpetuates, and on that front, they are woefully behind the times.

Instead, countless people who might have been in a position to change the status quo not only abdicated their responsibility but personally enabled or covered up appalling behavior.

For years, CEOs across the Fortune 500, from consumer products to consulting and even banking, have publically committed to taking diversity seriously as a strategic imperative. I have had the opportunity to work with many of these companies that have committed money and resources to advancing women and minorities at every level of the organization.

And while no company or industry has cracked the code, the signal so many executive leaders are sending makes a massive difference in the behaviors displayed throughout their organizations. Hollywood wields an extraordinary ability to shape public perception, which means they should be ahead of, not behind, the curve.

The Weinstein revelations should be a wakeup call for Hollywood that it’s 2017, not 1950. It’s high time the entire industry, at every level, from the movie set to the board room, take a good look at themselves and ask with candor, “Am I complicit?”

Sadly, for too many, the answer will be yes.

Lauren Leader-Chivee is the Co-Founder and CEO of All In Together and author of “Crossing the Thinnest Line: How Embracing Diversity — from the Office to the Oscars — Makes America Stronger.”

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harvey weinstein
ronan farrow

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