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Why Hollywood Needs to Lead the Way in Showing How to Create a Safer Workplace

Ladies and gentlemen in media and entertainment, now is your time. You’ve been through a lot lately, but the eyes of the world are on you. On behalf of your fans, I implore you to make the most of it.

You are a primary focus of public attention — our heroes and heroines. We grow up wanting to be like you, and we spend our hard-earned time and money watching your productions. We dress the way you dress, diet the way you diet and contribute to the causes you champion. It doesn’t take much for you to change our lifestyles, and you can even take leading roles in our nations. Why? Because you matter to us.

Now, as we begin to watch Harvey Weinstein and others in your industry face accountability for questionable conduct, we are looking to you in an entirely new way. Not only do we consider you to be the epicenter of infotainment; we now see you as workplaces too. While you bring fantasies to life and speak to millions, it’s now evident that you are also employers and employees who face the same kinds of challenges and pressures as the rest of us.

Yet unlike most of us, you can raise the bar. Not only for yourselves but for workplaces worldwide. For you, it’s a whole new stage, and your audience is large.

As your fans, we care not only about the kinds of productions you make; we are now paying attention to how you make them. We want to know that people of all walks of life have an equal chance to succeed on your sets, free from harm. But we also desperately need for you to show the powerful people at the top of our organizations just how it is done. After all, many of the people who are leaders in our workplaces are your fans too. If you change your direction, they just might follow.

We are not just asking. We need you to see beyond the individual acts that have rocked your world, and to explore new ways to create respectful workplaces. It’s not just about ferreting out the egregious wrongdoers and seeking justice. It’s also about changing the way you work, creating stages and sets where people feel valued, empowered and heard.

In workplaces outside Hollywood, the challenges are many. Each year, one in five employees has witnessed abusive or intimidating behavior that creates a hostile workplace. A third of us struggle to succeed on the job because of our sex, and equally many of us feel pressured to engage in sexual activity simply to remain employed. Twelve percent of employees have observed at least one act of sexual harassment in the last 12 months. Most of those acts (70%) were unwelcome comments of a sexual nature (56%) or unwelcome advances or propositions (55%).

Sound familiar?

Lest you think that the magic of Hollywood can’t possibly influence these workplace dramas, there are some things that you can do that will point us all to the right path.

“We dress the way you dress, diet the way you diet and contribute to the causes you champion. It doesn’t take much for you to change our lifestyles.”

You have already taken steps as an industry to establish standards of conduct. That’s a good start. But rules alone will not change behavior. Employees need places to go where they can safely report suspected wrongdoing, and support systems as they decide whether to do so. They need workplace cultures with shared ethical values and accountability when people overstep. And most important, respectful workplaces require role models. When leaders of organizations and industries genuinely commit to personal and professional integrity — and they demonstrate that commitment every day — the prevalence of sexual harassment alone drops by 93%.

Few industries have the social influence that you do. The opportunity, it seems to me, is not only to establish respectful workplaces in your industry. It is also to champion respectful workplaces as a cause, in the same way that you vivaciously pursue other humanitarian issues. There is so much more that you can do as an industry to help yourselves, and in doing so, you will help others.

Harvey Weinstein may be exiting stage right … but for you the show is not over. Lead the way, Hollywood. When it comes to establishing respectful workplaces, show us how it’s done.

Patricia Harned is CEO of the Ethics & Compliance Initiative, which empowers organizations to build and sustain high-quality ethics and compliance programs.

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