Tonight, you can be sure Golden Globe presenters Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Meryl Streep along with a bevy of other Hollywood luminaries, men and women, will be wearing black. On Monday, Time’s Up Movement revealed the Golden Globes-red carpet-black dress look will be worn to protest sexual harassment in Hollywood. Times Up’s initiatives include a $13m legal defense fund, legislation to penalize companies that tolerate harassment, and a push for gender parity at studios and agencies. The organization’s mission is to create real accountability and consequences. Having worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years, exposed to my own #metoosituations, and the mother of two grown daughters, I want to believe the movement’s goals will be rapid and achievable.
But I wonder; can the industry’s top level male mindsets nimbly shift? Will the hiring pendulum swing to parity or will there be an over compensation? Is Shonda Rhimes re-writing the workplace decorum playbook?
Tracy Van Slyke, strategy director for Pop Culture Collaborative, an organization whose goal is to catalyze social justice via the power of pop culture, believes the eruption in the entertainment business was a moment long in the making. And the most explosive place to create the necessary tipping point for global workplace change. “Women’s voices can no longer be dismissed,” she says. The entertainment business needs to elevate women, all women, from the board rooms to the writers rooms.
Legal and financial analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com, Jeff White isn’t convinced the recent upheaval will create positive change. “These sexual harassment claims could make the job prospects and potential wages of women increase, or they could make the gap even worse,” he cautions. “Many economists believe that women who have left high paying jobs were pushed out by men who harassed them, or by men who don’t want to be caught in that situation. Men are taking more precautions than they ever have which could mean women getting fewer positions.” Gabrielle Carteris, President of SAG-AFTRA voiced similar concerns, “I do have some concerns about potential backlash.”
Further frustrating the ability to move the agenda forward is our natural human instinct. Gordon Patzer, Ph.D,Roosevelt University professor and the world’s leading authority on physical attractiveness has overwhelmingly revealed through is empirical research as well as objective anecdotal observation that responses to persons of higher physical attractiveness are significantly different (i.e., significantly more favorable) than to persons of lower physical attractiveness. In other words, job applicants of higher compared to lower physical attractiveness are more likely to be interviewed and offered employment. Which in and of itself would not be bad except for the fact that a person’s physical and sexual attractiveness is often an interwoven accompanying dimension.
“We all know it: sort-of. We’ve all experienced it, whether we: realize it or not, acknowledge it or not, deny it or not,” he says.”Decisions about, and actions in regard to, co-workers and potential co-workers must be made with neutrality.” Hollywood’s HR departments will need to be hyper-vigilant in keeping the pendulum from over compensating. Managing the human predisposition and responsiveness to beauty and the concomitant sexual attraction will require conscientious and concerted efforts.
Thomas Schlamme, DGA President, expresses it best. “…Unless we recognize what has become so acceptable in our culture and how we possibly, even unconsciously, are participants, everything else will be meaningless. Changing culture is a long and difficult journey, but the first step towards that is acknowledgment.