Sexual harassment in media and entertainment isn’t new. But now that it’s caught the world’s attention, women in positions of power are struggling with how to move forward.
Escalating sexual-assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein have ignited a fire in the worlds of media and entertainment that is now burning through company after company. Allegations of abuse and misconduct against men at companies like NBC, Nickelodeon and Vox have led to several firings, and Fox News continues to deal with fallout from sexual harassment claims against Bill O’Reilly.
The issue now facing women in power is what to do next.
Sexual harassment isn’t a new problem in Hollywood. For as long as there have been movies there have been men pressuring young actresses onto the casting couch. In her 2016 memoir, actress Tippi Hedren accused Alfred Hitchcock of sexually assaulting her during filming of the 1964 movie Marnie.
The difference today is that there are more women in powerful positions at studios and publications who can start to effect real change.
Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist and No. 72 on our list, believes that the latest revelations may finally mean that the industry has hit a tipping point. “I think you can have change,” she says. “It’s not long ago that racist and homophobic remarks were prevalent in workplaces. And now it’s absolutely not OK.”Dana Walden, chair and CEO of Fox Television Group and No. 60 on this year’s Power Women list, believes that in order for the culture to evolve, we need more women in executive positions. “There must be women in the highest ranks of every organization, and meaningful female representation on every corporate board,” says Walden. “Our recruiting and our training has to be oriented to ensure that we’re identifying and nurturing future generations of female leaders.”
She believes in a re-evaluation of the way power dynamics play out in the workplace.
“There needs to be a genuine commitment by firms to root this out and be on guard for it, but you’d need a combination of things to change the culture,” she says. “Long term, it’s in everyone’s interest to get this right because if women feel uncomfortable, many will just leave. And this will always make for less effective companies.”
In the meantime, some of the women on our list are doing what they can to oust harassers. Taylor Swift (No. 85) broke her silence on the subject by suing a DJ who allegedly sexually assaulted her in 2013. Her settlement of just $1 in damages was symbolic, but her win meant much more to the hordes of young girls who look up to her. She pledged to donate more to “charitable organizations dedicated to protecting women from similar acts of sexual assault.”
Laurene Powell Jobs, No. 14 on our list, fired former publisher of The New Republic Leon Wieseltier from a job at her Emerson Collective, where he was working on a new publication. Wieseltier has been accused of sexually harassing women while he was at The New Republic.
As more women rise to positions of power, they’ll have more say in the culture of their companies, and many believe that’s when things will start to truly change. As Stacey Snider (No. 47) told Variety: “When more women are making casting decisions for their own films, or hiring engineers for their own start-ups — then there won’t be the same unchecked ease for men to wield unseemly or unfair power over women.”
10 Most Powerful Women In Media/Entertainment
No. 1: Anna Wintour, Artistic Director, Conde Nast
No. 2: Bonnie Hammer, Chair, NBCU
No. 3: Stacey Snider, Chair-CEO, 20th Century Fox
No. 4: Beyonce Knowles, Singer
No. 5: Margarita Simonyan, Editor-in-Chief, RT (Russia)
No. 6: Dana Walden, CEO, Fox Television Group
No. 7: Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian
No. 8: Donna Langley, Chair, Universal Pictures
No.9: Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
No. 10: Kathleen Kennedy, President, Lucasfilms
No. 11: Arinna Huffington, Cofounder, Huffington Post
No. 12: Taylor Swift, Singer-Advocate
No. 13: J.K. Rowling, Author-Advocate
No. 14: Shobhana Bhartia, Chair, HT Media
No. 15: Priyanka Chopra, Actor-U.N. Goodwill Ambassador