The best way to tackle bullying and sexual harassment in the creative industries

Homo alpha, expelliarmus!

For some time now, commentators have been noting the wave of change finally brought around regarding female representation in the creative industries, including us in our blog on #metoo. On our screens, this has been playing out with the notable increase in women in prominent roles: Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly made the first prime time female presenting duo in 2014, and this year Jodie Whittaker became our first female Doctor Who.

This change is starting to be seen behind the scenes as well. Of 201 men who have lost their jobs following accusations of sexual harassment in the past year, 43% of those who have been replaced have been replaced by women. The NYT has put together a handy list. But has enough been done? How far do we still have to go?

Well, only 36% of jobs in the creative sector are currently filled by women. At a senior level women are even less represented, making up only 11% of Creative Directors or equivalent across the sector. In TV, only 17% of output in a recent survey was helmed by female directors. This lack of representation has implications on workplace culture: a survey by Edinburgh International Television Festival found that 65% of responders who had experienced bullying or harassment in the TV industry lacked faith in their employers to deal with it. Businesses face a huge financial and reputational cost if they keep accused sexual predators in roles. Removing them from power presents unique financial and social opportunities around increasing diversity and improving the way workplaces operate.

According to Festival Director Lisa Campbell, “positive change can only come from the top. A clear set of guidelines, supported by cross-industry organisations in this way, is a vital and hugely encouraging step towards the cultural shift needed.” Events like the Women in the Creative Industries Day are key to supporting women “from the top” and creating networking opportunities historically afforded to men. Campaign has also launched #TellHerStory, to promote women in the creative industries.

But it’s not enough to drive change only for those who are already towards the top of their industry. For real change to happen, it has to happen at all levels throughout organisations. One example of driving change for the top, starting at the bottom, is the London Screen Academy. Set to open in 2019 and founded by some of the British film industry’s most successful figures, it is seeking to tackle the “legitimate problem that the screen industries don’t in any way reflect modern Britain.”

Having a more diverse representation will help tackle issues around sexual harassment and bullying within the creative industries. Dismantling traditional power structures could stop those in charge being able to abuse their power, and then cover it up, as allegedly happened last month with Philip Green. Creating a diverse culture should enable problems to be addressed, victims to be believed, and continue the diversification of content produced. For real change, diversity needs to be reflected both on and behind our screens at all levels.


Josephine Kemp

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Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, information, technology, communications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.