Despite the efforts of the Me Too movement and Time’s Up, sexism still exists in Hollywood. Whether it’s behind the scenes of entertainment, or on the red carpet, women are being threatened by discrimination, harassment, and abuse.
With new leadership for Time’s Up and Time’s Up Entertainment, the organization seeks to improve the working conditions of both women in Hollywood and in the boardroom. Here’s how they’re going to do it.
Time’s Up began in January 2018 after the entertainment dealt with a series of sexual harassment allegations involving entertainers and moguls such as Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Matt Lauer, etc. The movement advocated for safer and more equitable work environments for women in Hollywood and in other industries.
Time’s Up was launched with endorsements from prominent celebrities and entertainers such as Natalie Portman, Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Ava DuVernay, and Brie Larson. The organization also unveiled a legal defense fund in partnership with the National Women’s Law Center, in which it received nearly $13 million in initial donations, with most of the money coming from Hollywood talent agencies.
Legal Defense Fund
The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which offers subsidized legal support to those facing sexual misconduct in the workplace, has raised more than $22 million in the last nine months, according to Vanity Fair. The fund has also awarded $750,000 in grants to 18 nonprofit organizations that support low-wage workers enduring alleged sexual misconduct in the workplace.
The inner workings of Time’s Up have been somewhat concealed from the public, as the organization has not yet broadcasted its full set of goals. But now, the group wants to change that, by explaining how things currently stand at the organization. Today, Time’s Up now has a full-time staff of seven women in New York and Los Angeles. Up until recently, Time’s Up Entertainment (an affiliate of the core Time’s Up organization) didn’t disclose their employees but that all changed when Nithya Raman was named executive director in July 2018.
Many may not have heard of Raman because she’s an urban planner who spent most of her career in India advocating for slum dwellers to receive access to basic services. Then, she spent the last three years in the Los Angeles mayor’s office working on homelessness initiatives. “There is a sense often in the entertainment industry that it is a very unique industry, that it is really different from others,” Raman told Variety.com.
“But for me coming from the background that I do, I feel a lot of the problems are really common.” Then, ten months after it was founded, Time’s Up announced that Lisa Borders is its first ever president and chief executive officer. Borders stepped down from her position as President of the Women’s National Basketball Association to become the first-ever President and Chief Executive Officer of Time’s Up.
A Born Leader
Under Borders’ leadership, the WNBA delivered its most-watched season in four years, combined viewership across ESPN networks and NBA TV was up double digits. In addition, Borders helped launch “Take a Seat, Take a Stand,” a program that that donates a portion of WNBA ticket proceeds to designated nonprofit organizations committed to empowering women and girls. Prior to joining the WNBA, Borders served as Chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation and Vice President, Global Community Affairs at The Coca-Cola Company.
“In her new role, Borders will continue [Time Up’s work] to ensure equal opportunity and protection for all working women, seizing this unprecedented moment and transforming it into meaningful and institutionalized change across culture, companies, and laws,” The WNBA wrote. Borders opened up in her first interview in Vanity Fair, during which the magazine described her as “radiating power,” and saying that she has the “gloss of a born politician.”
Shonda Rhimes, who helped run the search for Time’s Up’s inaugural leader said: “Lisa has the qualities I wanted most, which is proven experience and commitment to gender and inclusion issues, and an amazing track record moving the needle of change.” During her interview, Borders emphasized that Time’s Up “is not a club.” “I would just offer the invitation to everyone, right here, right now … come join us on this journey.”
“To disrupt and reinvent the ingrained status quo, we will need all hands on deck to create and sustain enduring change,” Borders said in a statement. “I am convinced that together, we will shift the paradigm of workplace culture.”
Time’s Up Entertainment
As far as Time’s Up Entertainment, which is designed as a 501(c)(4), seeks to create a unit dedicated specifically to the industry that created Time’s Up. Raman, so far, is the only full-time employee, being aided by staffers from the core Time’s Up, which provided the initial funding. Raman’s goal is for the entertainment affiliate to be independently funded through grants and donation.
“The staff size that I’m going to be able to grow to depends on how much money I’m able to raise,” Raman says. She explains that part of the reason for Time’s Up Entertainment’s low-key rollout is that most of its fledgling initiatives are not ready for public consumption. The program that she is able to talk about, however, is called Critical and it isn’t focused on the entertainment industry, but rather on the journalists who cover it.
Critical is a digital tool to be used by studios and publicists to “help them put together events that were more reflective of the broader American audience,” according to Raman. This essentially means being able to assemble invitation lists for press events that would be less overstuffed with straight white men.
Working with critics’ organizations and film festivals, Time’s Up Entertainment has begun to form a database of film journalists that come from diverse backgrounds and work in nontraditional media such as podcasts. “One of the questions that we are talking about in those early days was barriers that unrepresented voices, including women, including people of color, faced in telling their stories,” Raman told Variety.
Male Dominated Industry
“The critics issue just came up in different conversations, and felt like something where we in the entertainment industry had the ability to make some changes in how we could remove barriers that we were putting up to a far greater diversity of voices,” she said. For example, the fact that white men dominate film criticism is a fact.
In a study by the University of Southern California’s Stacy L. Smith, with Time’s Up Entertainment, it was discovered that white men wrote 65.6 percent of the reviews of top-grossing films from 2015-2017. “As pointed out throughout this study, when film critics are overwhelmingly white and male, films may not be given the same opportunities to succeed,” Raman told Color Lines in a statement.
“We will continue to advocate to ensure that the entertainment industry proactively provides access to a much more diverse pool of critics,” she added. USC’s study also illustrates the impact that entertainment outlets, arts desks, and the film criticism establishment’s exclusion of journalists of color (especially women of color) has on both Hollywood and media.
Women of Color
The industry’s biggest studios reportedly aren’t doing enough to make sure critics of color review their films. For example, women of color reviewed only 3.7 percent of the relevant films released by Universal Pictures and white men reviewed 65 percent of that studio’s movies.
According to statistics on Time’s Up Now website, “From 2007 to 2016, 4 percent of top-grossing directors were female. Just 7 were women of color. 1 in 1,114 directors across 1,000 movies was Latina.” They also said that “only about half of the world’s working-age women participate in the labor force, compared to around three-quarters of their male counterparts. Closing that gap could add an estimated $12 trillion in global GDP by 2025.”
Overall, the mission of Time’s Up and Time’s Up Entertainment is to address “the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.” Going forward, Time’s Up will be partnering with leading advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements, and corporate policies. They will “help change the face of corporate boardrooms and the C-suite, and enable more women and men to access our legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable.”