Three thousand women have contacted the TimesUp Legal Defense Fund seeking help in addressing sexual harassment and abuse in the six months since its inception, says Sharyn Tejani, the organization’s executive director. Speaking at a Power Women Breakfast on June 13 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by TheWrap, Tejani also said that over 700 attorneys have joined its network.
Founded on Jan. 1, 2018 by more than 300 women in Hollywood, including high-profile leaders like Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and Shonda Rimes, TimesUp was created in part to honor the #MeToo movement’s efforts to give voice to the victims of sexual abuse and misconduct. Its defense fund, managed by the National Women’s Law Center, is the most successful GoFundMe campaign of all time, collecting $21 million in only two months. It offers free consultation for low-income and underprivileged women from all professions seeking redress for harassment claims.
The event featured a panel discussion, at which Tejani was joined by TimesUp co-founders actress Amber Tamblyn and out activist, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen.
“TimesUp really was created as an organization for empowerment for gender equity in the workplace, for changing behavior in the workplace,” Rosen said. “Every single day, I pay homage to these privileged women in the entertainment industry whose gift was really to figure out how to help low wage workers.”
“For me, TimesUp exists so that no woman or man ever has to say #MeToo again, that’s the fundamental soul of what we’re doing,” Tamblyn said.
While the progress described by Tejani and her colleagues seems promising, a new report published on June 12 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine indicates that the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace may require a deeper solution than is offered by holding individual perpetrators accountable for their actions.
The study was authored by 21 experts after more than two years of research and looks specifically at academic sciences, engineering, and medicine—but its findings can be applied to workplaces within the private sector as well.
An overview of its conclusions states: “Attending to an organization’s climate is crucial to preventing and addressing harassment because organizational climate is the greatest predictor of sexual harassment. Organizations with tolerant, or even perceived tolerant, climates show higher rates of sexual harassment than those seen as intolerant.”
In the words of Lilia Cortina, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan and one of the report’s co-authors, “It’s not about rooting out the bad apples; we need to focus on the whole barrel.”
The study also found that the second greatest predictor of sexual harassment is a higher ratio of men to women, particularly in the top levels of an organization. Within the Hollywood entertainment complex, that ratio remains significantly lopsided.
For 2018, the New York Film Academy’s annual report on gender inequality in the motion picture industry found only 25% of producers and 19% of executive producers were women. In creative positions such as directing, writing, and cinematography, the numbers were even lower.
These findings seem to reflect patterns seen in the high-profile cases of sexual misconduct that have emerged over past months. The multiple accusations that came to light against such figures as producer Harvey Weinstein and TV broadcaster Matt Lauer were for incidents that occurred over a period of years within organizations dominated by men.
On June 15, longtime HIV/AIDS advocate and LGBT ally actress Judith Light said the #MeToo movement reminded her of the early days of the LGBT community’s fight for equality.
“I am so relieved and grateful and joy filled that these stories are being told,” Light, an Emmy and Tony award winner, told TheWrap editor in chief Sharon Waxman during the Power Women Breakfast NYC.
“It goes back to the thing I was talking about the LGBTQ community,” Light said. “Who will you be? Who is your authentic self? If you have secrets you need to tell them. You need to talk about them and that’s what’s happening and that is something that really thrills me.”
“Women need to be heard, their stories need to be told,” she said. “I feel a difference in the way I am relating to the women that I know.”
Light, who stars in “Transparent” and Ryan Murphy’s recent series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” was featured at TheWrap event looking at her long career and advocacy work. For instance, on Jan. 16, 1989, Light portrayed Jeanne White, AIDS hero Ryan White’s mother in the ABC TV movie “The Ryan White Story,” in which Ryan White made a cameo appearance; he died 15 months later.
Light credits her long LGBT advocacy for getting the “Transparent” role. “[Talking about the LGBT community] was my audition, I didn’t read the script,” she said. “The community which I think is the most inspiring and extraordinary community was being shoved away, shoved in the closet. There was a level of homophobia that still runs deep in this country.”
The public will have an opportunity to weigh in at the box office on July 17 when disgraced gay actor Kevin Spacey returns in “Billionaire Boys Club,” which was shot before sexual harassment complaints about him expanded the #MeToo movement to gay men. If there is pre-release promotion, the film’s young stars—Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Emma Roberts and Billie Lourd—may lend their voices to the cause, as well.