How Hollywood's Leaders Plan to Protect Employees in the Wake of Harvey Weinstein's Controversy

Industry executives share their perspectives on industry sexual misconduct

By Samantha Schnurr Oct 17, 2017 4:52 PMTags

In the aftermath of many sexual misconduct allegations waged against Hollywood megaproducer Harvey Weinstein, the industry is turning a mirror on itself. 

As famous figures ranging from Blake Lively to Rob Schneider come forward with their own previously-kept-secret stories about the sexual misconduct they endured at the hands of various people behind the scenes—producers, directors, makeup artists—questions are now being raised about what the entertainment world can do as a whole to ensure such experiences are finally put to an end. 

"We shouldn't wait until there are any more stories like this," Benedict Cumberbatch urged to The Hollywood Reporter as the allegations against Weinstein flooded in. "We, as an industry and as a society at large need to play our part. There has to be zero tolerance of any such behavior in any walk of life. We owe that to these women's bravery in coming forward."

In response to the widespread calls for awareness and action from A-list figures, Variety rounded up responses from Hollywood executives regarding what they plan to do to prevent sexual assault in the workplace. Many honed in on the lack of equality between genders that can often make it easier for workplace abuse to take place. 

"The behavior being discussed is repulsive and abhorrent," Fox Television Group Chairman and CEO Dana Walden began in her remarks to the magazine. "I think most members of a civilized society would agree with that statement. The question, though, is how to cure this cancer?" Walden suggested empowering more women at work in order to achieve gender equality and eliminate the "boy's club" that can protect men who are abusing their power. "I don't know a single woman in my generation of executives who has not experienced an untoward comment or inappropriate gaze, a hug that lasted too long or was too tight," she noted. 

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"The treatment of women in the workplace — like the issue of diversity and representation — will only improve when businesses provide equal access and opportunity," Twentieth Century Fox Chairman and CEO Stacey Snider echoed in her remarks to the outlet. "Men can only harass, threaten and intimidate in professional situations when they are the gatekeepers to jobs, raises and projects."

As Snider continued, "Once the power differential is finally balanced and more women are running companies and divisions — 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."

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Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley addressed the present difficulty women face in deciding whether to come forward with their accounts. "In a culture based on relationships, it takes real courage to speak speak up. But speaking up shouldn't require such bravery. The stakes shouldn't be that high."

As the industry—and many others across the board—use current events to take an inward look, Langley encourages the current discomfort if it means putting an end to this kind of behavior. "We need to stay in this uncomfortable state and make it uncomfortable for anyone who thinks this type of behavior, in any form, is acceptable. Together we must make an intentional move to end the culture of silence and replace it with one of zero tolerance."

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman touched on Hollywood's history of misconduct—and how it should stop there. 

"I have at various times during my 30-year career occupied both Darryl Zanuck's and Louis B. Mayer's old offices, and I have read all the books and know many stories of what went on there," he said in his statement to Variety. "This is not a new problem. And it is not confined to one man or one category of abuse. But it is long past time for it to end."