I remember the day so vividly. It was Jan. 1, 2018, and 300 prominent women in the entertainment industry vowed their support of Time’s Up, a new nonprofit organization focused on fighting sexual abuse in Hollywood and beyond. The group published an open letter signed by high-profile talent including Shonda Rhimes, Natalie Portman, Ava DuVernay, Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria, among many others.
For those of us in media who are committed to continually shining a harsh light on Hollywood’s systemic sexual harassment crisis, it was heartening to know that this noble effort was being backed by such an influential group of women and that it extended to all sectors of America’s workplace.
There was profound promise for this well-intended organization, which launched on the heels of the #MeToo movement that organized after sexual assault and rape allegations surfaced against disgraced movie mogul, and now convicted felon, Harvey Weinstein.
But nearly four years later, after major upheaval in its leadership ranks, Time’s Up had to acknowledge the need for a “major reset” based on a sobering report that it commissioned, revealing a litany of missteps. On Nov. 19, Time’s Up announced that it would cease most operations by year-end and was terminating most of its 25-person staff but for three people in operations and four board members, including Ashley Judd, who will help during its transition.
This week I connected with Judd — who aligned with Time’s Up at its inception and earlier with the #MeToo movement with her own sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein — to get her take on the current situation.
“We still need Time’s Up, and that’s why we’re going down to the studs, taking a look at the mistakes we made, learning from our errors and being completely transparent and accountable in the same way that we demand other organizations be transparent and accountable,” she says.
So what went so wrong?
“As a board, we didn’t have some guardrails in place that were important, and that was a governing lapse on our part, which we regret,” says Judd. “That’s a mistake we will not make in the future. There were some communication lapses, and we didn’t have a strong middle management core, so that was a structural challenge. Even though we were super clear about our singleness of purpose for a fair and equitable workplace, there were some people who seemed not to be entirely clear about our mission.”
Judd knows that she and her Time’s Up colleagues face a significant challenge in trying to regain the loss of faith in the organization that so many are experiencing.
“It is a process, and it’s tough in the culture in which we live to rebuild trust,” she says. “Hopefully by releasing the report and keeping our word about transparency, that’s an initial step. And we ask for the suspension of disbelief. We’re going to get it right. We’re going to take the time it takes, and we understand the urgency for Time’s Up to exist.”
Judd hopes that by the end of 2022, Time’s Up will rise again.
“We have to end male impunity and the ecosystems that enable it,” she says. “We still hold the hope.”
As do I. Despite its flaws, Time’s Up has helped so many women facing workplace discrimination, and I want to believe the organization will make the transformational changes necessary to ensure its lasting future.