Nearly three decades ago, Anita Hill took a stand against harassment when, during his Senate confirmation, she publicly accused Justice Clarence Thomas, who is now the most senior member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, Hill continues her work to end sexual harassment, gender discrimination and racial bias in the workplace.
As chair of the The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, which was founded by Kathleen Kennedy and Nina Shaw, Hill helped to conduct a survey of nearly 10,000 workers in entertainment to help provide real data to the industry, in hopes that real progress will be made.
Last week, the first results of the groundbreaking survey were released, showcasing daunting findings regarding accountability, abuse of power, retaliation and the challenges of reporting sexual harassment.
This week, the commission has released its second report from the game-changing survey, this time pertaining to diversity and inclusion, revealing the bias gap among employees in the entertainment industry.
The findings highlight the staggering differences in the perceptions and experiences of bias and inclusion between men, women and underrepresented groups — and the results strongly indicate the need for Hollywood to urgently increase its diversity efforts, with less than half of survey participants believing that diversity and inclusion are core values in Hollywood.
“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,” Hill said in a statement released to Variety. “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.”
The survey, which was conducted over a three-month period from Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020, found that women across all demographics were twice as likely to experience biased or unfair behavior in the workplace when compared to their male counterparts.
Digging deeper, women of color were more likely to experience bias than white women with multi-racial and Black women describing that they have been denied opportunities that were given to others. Individuals with disabilities were twice as likely to be treated unfairly, in comparison to those without a disability.
When looking at the industry’s value of diversity in the workplace, research found that men working in entertainment “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.”
The study found white men to have the most positive view on progress in diversity (78%), followed by Black men (67%), white women (66%) and bi-racial women (50%). Less than half (47%) of Black women hold the opinion that Hollywood has made progress with diversity.
“There is still very little effort to hire diverse people,” an anonymous participant shared in the survey. “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.”
Another survey participant said racism is “nearly impossible” to report because the behavior usually comes from the executive producer or showrunner on a set. “Racism in writers’ rooms is an epidemic and it often happens on the most ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ shows,” this individual wrote anonymously, adding, “There needs to be a #MeToo movement for racism in writers’ rooms. Many of us have discussed it, but we are too afraid to report it.”
Black and bi-racial women were three times as likely as white women to say in the anonymous survey that they were told they were “token hires.” Women of color were also far more likely to have had experienced tokenism than Black men. And in comparison to white men, Hispanic and Black men were also more likely to be told they were token hires at their place of work.
“Hollywood has an insidious problem with both sexual harassment and discrimination,” another anonymous participant wrote in the survey. “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.”
Another participant wrote, “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.”
On a positive note, survey respondents did write that they are witnessing progress, but nearly 90% of participants stated a need for mentoring programs on diversity and inclusion.
Later this month, the Hollywood Commission will release further survey results that pertain to bullying in the industry, and the progress made since the #MeToo movement in regards to sexual harassment and assault.