Anita Hill-Led Hollywood Commission Finds “Bias Gap” In Hollywood; Women Twice As Likely To Experience Discrimination

The latest report from the Anita Hill-led Hollywood Commission has found a “remarkable bias gap” among workers in the entertainment industry, with industry women across all demographics “roughly twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience every form of biased or unfair behavior.” The report also found that less than half (49%) of the 9,630 industry workers surveyed believe that diversity and inclusion are core values of the entertainment industry.

The report concluded that “men in Hollywood appear to inhabit a parallel universe when it comes to their overwhelmingly positive perception of progress in welcoming and valuing diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.” According to the report, “Three out of four men (75%) see progress being made in welcoming and valuing diverse backgrounds, compared to 63% of women.”

The survey also revealed “a remarkable gap between the experiences and perceptions of majority men and underrepresented groups as to diversity and inclusion across the entertainment industry. While the majority of respondents believe that there has been progress with respect to diversity and inclusion” since the #MeToo movement began three years ago in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, “that view differs significantly by gender identity and race with majority men having a far more positive perception of progress.”

Read the full report here.

Hill, who chairs the commission, said: “Research clearly shows that diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it is good for creativity, productivity and the bottom line. The entertainment industry has the unique potential to tell the stories of today’s richly diverse world. But to get there, the barriers to underrepresented people being valued and in ‘the room where it happens’ must be eliminated. And once they do get into ‘the room where it happens,’ they must not be the only one.”

Today’s report on bias and discrimination in the workplace follows a report released last week that found that despite groundbreaking gains made by the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements over the last three years, the vast majority of workers in the entertainment industry still don’t believe that those in positions of power will be held accountable for sexual harassment. Later this month, the Commission will release separate reports on bullying; sexual harassment and sexual assault, and a final report with recommendations.

According to the commission, “White males continue to dominate film and television executive suites, from senior management to television network and studio heads. Approximately 97% of partners running talent agencies are white. Underrepresentation in the executive suite is mirrored by underrepresentation behind the camera (producers, directors, writers, composers), onscreen and onstage.

“Representation at all levels, throughout the industry, is critical. More diverse and inclusive workforces are more creative, better at problems solving, and are better able to respond to the demands of today’s entertainment consumers. But representation alone doesn’t ensure equity or 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.

“Hidden attitudes that operate outside of a person’s awareness. and may even be in direct contradiction to a person’s espoused beliefs and values, influence the decisions people make in the workplace. Unconscious or implicit bias can contribute to inequitable work environments and negatively affect opportunities and outcomes for underrepresented groups within the entertainment industry.”

Other key findings in today’s report include:

Bias and unfair behavior:
• Women of color experience higher rates of every form of bias or unfair behavior than their white counterparts. Almost one-third (30%) of bi-racial or multi-racial women and roughly one-fifth (22%) of Black women described being denied opportunities given to others in similar circumstances.
• Individuals with a disability were roughly twice as likely to be subjected to biased or unfair behavior as those without a disability.

Progress in welcoming and valuing diversity:
• White men have the most positive view of progress in diversity (78%), followed by Black or African-African men (67%).
• Women have a less positive view, with 66% of white women, 50% of bi-racial women, and only 47% of Black or African American women saying that Hollywood has made progress.
• Individuals with disabilities saw less progress on this front (59%) than those without a disability (69%).
• Heterosexual or lesbian/gay respondents also had a more positive view of progress (70% and 66% respectively), compared to 60% who identify as bisexual, and 56% of those who prefer to self-describe.

Tokenism:
• Black women and bi-racial or multi-racial women were almost three times as likely to say they were told that they were token hires than their white female counterparts, and one-and-a-half times as likely to say they were token hires than Black men.
• Black or African-American men and men of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origins were far more likely than white men to be told they were token hires.

Diversity and inclusion as core value:
• The report found that 61% of men believe that diversity and inclusion is a core value in the business.
• Among males, 64% of white men said they think that diversity and inclusion are core values of the entertainment industry, compared to 40% of Black men and 53% of men of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
• Among women, only 27% of Black women held the same belief, compared to 42% of white women and 38% of women of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.

Union status:
• Non-union status was also a significant predictor of workplace experience, with non-union members roughly twice as likely as their union or guild counterparts to report experiencing all forms of biased or unfair behaviors.

Primary area of work:
• There were fewer differences in experiences based on primary area of work. Those working in corporate positions or talent representation, however, reported slightly more negative experiences.

The report found that although respondents saw progress made over the past three years, 87% said that that mentoring programs would be welcome, while 88% said that resources on diversity and inclusion would be either somewhat or very useful.

The report also comes with recommendations to address bias in order to “close gaps in awareness and provide tools to address behaviors in the workplace.” The report notes that the Commission has launched a pilot program with 450 entertainment workers taking part in bystander training to address harassment and bias. The pilot program will include virtual reality training, web-based training, and six workshops tailored to the industry. This is designed to teach employees “effective strategies on how to address and intervene when they witness bad behaviors, including micro-aggressions, taking place. Equipping employees with the tools to tackle hostile behaviors can help foster greater inclusion and belonging.”

In addition to a model policy to promote safe, equitable, and harassment-free workplaces, the Hollywood Commission says it will also 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.”

The Commission also recommends that the entertainment industry establish organizational commitments to end — and accountability for — bias, diversity and inclusion. The Commission urges companies to:
• Review employment policies and procedures for their negative impact on individuals from underrepresented groups.
• Implement performance evaluations that include addressing bias and fostering diversity and inclusion in the workforce and, where appropriate to the position, in content.
• Support mentorship, sponsorship and career coaching programs within organizations or through third parties.
• Foster shared awareness, invest in industry training options to include implicit bias training that empowers bystanders and addresses micro-aggressions along with the violations of hiring and promotion standards.

More than a third of those who took the survey provided narrative responses. Here is a sampling of statements they wrote:
• “Hollywood has an insidious problem with both sexual harassment and discrimination. Racial discrimination and racist behaviors and beliefs are ingrained in the business, from casting on down. Most white writers will never identify race in scripts, save for non-white characters. The assumption becomes every character is white unless otherwise noted.”
• “Many people on set still believe it’s ok to tell racist or sexist jokes under the umbrella of ‘set confidentiality.’ What happens in Vegas sort of mentality. While I understand set is stressful and there is a need to vent/relieve stress, racist and sexist jokes are not OK. I find the average set to be a place where people feel they can get away with being ‘casually’ racist or sexist so long as they don’t physically interact with people in a negative way.”
• “There is still very little effort to hire diverse people. People hire who they’ve worked with before and don’t often give a chance or reach out to give a leg up to diverse people or new people.”
• “Racism in writers’ rooms is an epidemic and it often happens on the most ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ shows. Jobs are so hard to get it’s nearly impossible to report racism because it usually comes from the executive producers and showrunners. There needs to be a Me Too movement for racism in writers’ rooms. Many of us have discussed it, but we are too afraid to report it.”
• “Sexism and gender discrimination are inherent in the entertainment industry. I see countless industry jokes and memes at the expense of women and LGBT and it sends the message ‘You’re not one of us. You don’t belong here.’”
• “The industry does foster the idea that you should have ‘thick skin’ and be able to ‘take a joke,’ even if that joke is at the expense of your race, gender, or sexuality.”

The survey polled respondents working in television and film, commercials, live theater, music, broadcast news, talent representation, public relations, and corporate settings. The Commission said that the survey is “key in our collective, relentless drive to create a safe and equitable future in the entertainment industry,” while noting that “Bias is expressed in many forms, in all workplaces. They range from outright denials of job or promotions based on a workers’ identity, to comments suggesting a workers’ gender, race, ethnicity or disability renders them incapable of doing certain jobs.”

The Hollywood Commission is scheduled to release two more reports this month — one on bias (due October 13) and another on #MeToo/sexual harassment and assault (October 22).

The commission was co-founded in 2017 by Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, and Nina Shaw, a co-founder of Time’s Up and a founding partner of the Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano law firm.

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