Just weeks before ELLE's 25th Women in Hollywood celebration, Anita Hill was back in the headlines. As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford appeared at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to testify about allegations that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, many looked to Hill's own Senate Judiciary Committee testimony just 27 years prior. At the time, Hill had accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and just like Kavanaugh, he was still confirmed. It can seem, on the surface, like not much has changed in those years, but if you look at Hill's body of work, it's clear that's not the case.
In December 2017, Hill became the leader of the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, an initiative initially put forth by producer Kathleen Kennedy. The commission was created to tackle the abuse and harassment taking place in the entertainment industry. On Monday night, almost a year later, Hill took the stage at Women in Hollywood to discuss the future of the commission and what needs to happen for all workplaces to be free of harassment.
She told the crowd, "I’ve heard the stories over and over again, and they replicate my own story... Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story… [there's] no place to go where you can expect to be heard. We cannot tolerate that in this industry, and I’ve been working on a way to solve this problem since I came on board."
Read her full speech, below, to learn more about her work and her vision for the future of Hollywood:
I’m just thrilled to be here, and I want to thank Kathy for making my being here possible. Congratulations to all of the honorees tonight. My remarks are going to be about the commission that Kathy brought forward to us and what we have been doing this last year to fulfill the vision that she has for us. In the last few weeks... we have a very diverse group of commission members-a number of our commissioners reached out to express their anguish over recent events. Indeed, those things that are going on in Washington have had an impact throughout our industry. There is a profound sense of betrayal and despair among many that the government no longer cares about protecting the basic rights to be heard and to have our pains recognized as a public concern. And that is where we are with the government, but that is not where we are as an industry. That is not where we are as an American public.
We know that the pain that we are feeling, we know that the anguish that we are feeling, and the outrage that we are feeling, is not restricted to those who work in or around Hollywood. With the independence of our highest court called into question, however, it is not too much to suggest that we are at a pivotal moment in the life of our republic. But at such a moment, there should be no question about our responsibility as individuals and as co-workers. We must make it unequivocally clear that if the government is not prepared to protect women from sexual violence, we in our industry will do it ourselves.
...We all deserve to work in places free of harassment. We all deserve an equal chance to display our very talents throughout this industry and throughout workplaces all over. So tonight I’m going to focus-I could talk about our diversity and our inclusion-but I’m going to focus tonight on talking about our response to sexual harassment, because I know people want to know what is going on with the commission. From the beginning, our goal was to make sure that every commission organization operates to highest and best practice standards, whether it’s sexual harassment or diversity inclusion. But here’s what that means in real terms to those of us who are doing this work, and I warn you, these are not headline-making or exciting initiatives. What you’re about to hear are the operations and protections necessary to counter systemic abuses. And therefore, I find them quite honorable and sacred.
First, our goal is that for all of our members that they support workplace cultures that emphasize a collective awareness of existing problems and a deliberate pursuit of strategies to prevent new abuses from arising. Just to be plain about it, what we want to make sure is that we are not only changing practices but that we’re changing culture as well. And that is critical if the moves that we put in place are going to be lasting. We have been gathering information from individuals who are working within our organizations, commission organizations, the people who are responsible for taking complaints about abuses in particular. We've asked them four questions: What are they doing now to respond to the crisis? What are they doing that they think is working? And how are they measuring their efforts to determine whether they really are working? And finally, we ask them, what do they know about the work that isn’t about accomplishing the goals that they were intended to accomplish? These are not easy questions, I think, for any of us to come clean on. But these are important questions for us to be asking.
We're not only looking to the people who are doing the work inside our organizations. We’re looking at gathering information from individuals who are experiencing bias so that we know what the experiences are. We are actually following a lead of one of our member organizations, a writers' guild, who have collected the stories from their members to decide what is going on. And this way, what we’re hoping to do, this dual track of information gathering will allow the commission to help us later propose high level and targeted responses to sexual misconduct. That slate will ultimately include recommendations about reporting options, that’ll include different mechanisms for reporting... some HR support. We’re offering a slate of recommendations...and we are providing our members with information about the resources out there.
Training is also going to be on our slate, whether it is bystander training or implicit bias training that can be delivered in different locations. I cannot tell you how much I have learned about Hollywood and how you produce movies, what goes on in this business. It started from zero, so it’s not that impressive how much I’ve learned. But what I have learned is that the delivery of training in an office has to be different than the delivery of training when it’s on set, if it’s going to be effective. So we are thinking about recommendations that are specific to this industry. And to do that, we really have to know about the industry.
I could go on about what the best practice proposals for investigations will be, the fact that we are clear that investigators must be trained to conduct trauma-informed inquiries... I keep going back to what’s going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but I think it’s an example of how important it is to have investigators who actually know how to talk to victims... I’m not going to go on with all of the list-I did what I typically do when I am teaching, which is to prepare more information than not. And I will warn you, I teach in three-hour blocks, and we do not have three hours here tonight.
I will tell you that we are taking a problem-solving approach to ending sexual harassment and other abuses of power that we know exist in this industry. We are also looking outside of the industry for solutions. Now you have a lot of solutions, and we have to put together, to bring together to make a whole here. But many ideas actually do come from the outside as well. So we are going to be putting together what we’re calling our Ideas Summit to get our members working and thinking outside of their own experiences. We’re bringing in a whole host of people, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, as well as conversation with grassroots organizers and others who have new ideas and fresh ideas that I think will help move us all forward.
We’re also going to be tackling some hard questions that make this really a working meeting-questions about intersectionality, due process, transparency, confidentiality, and how to engage straight, white men in our work...this is a challenge, but I know it’s not a challenge for straight, white men who are here...
I just want to say one final thing about what I have learned in my interactions and all of the information-I call it truth-seeking gatherings that we are having. And I have found, unfortunately, that there are a large number of workers in our industry...that essentially have no access to a consistent and safe system for reporting, addressing, and resolving claims of harassment and other forms of bias. That is unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable. I’ve heard the stories over and over again, and they replicate my own story... Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story… no place to go where you can expect to be heard. We cannot tolerate that in this industry, and I’ve been working on a way to solve this problem since I came on board in December.
We are looking to establish a full complaint investigation and resolution system for those people who have no place to go. We never want to have someone step forward and go talk to Ronan [Farrow] and say, "I had no place to go." That we cannot tolerate. So that is our goal for the future, and many have quibbled over the number of workers... but here’s the thing, it is not acceptable for any number of people to fall through the cracks of systems that are put in place to protect against bias and abuse. It’s not acceptable. So this is a matter of industry-wide concern. It’s going to cost money, and it’s going to cost time. But it’s going to give back so much to this industry in terms of talent that may have been lost and is actually being lost because people are hurting and suffering.
All of this begins with sharing and collecting information, and sometimes people get tired and they think, "Well, this is going too slowly," and I, of course, think it’s going too slowly, but I’ve waited 27 years. The diversity of our membership-there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a response to abuse or to increasing diversity. I am grateful for the work that some of our members are already undertaking. Though some are ahead of others in working toward our goals, I am certain that if we come together as a collaborative, collective body, everybody can be brought to a place where the entire industry-including you, in this room-can be proud of. I am also convinced that what we do in the entertainment industry can and will resonate beyond the precincts of Hollywood. For the sake of what we know is right, we must prove equal to this task. So thank you.
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