We explore why bullying and harassment is still so prevalent across the creative industries. What are its impacts? How we can eliminate it? Brought to you by YouTube.
Streamed online as part of the Creative Coalition Festival 2022, Eradicating Bullying and Harassment examined the prevalence of bullying and harassment in the creative industries, and the ways in which we can prevent it.
Jen Smith, Head of Inclusion at the British Film Institute, chaired the event which included speakers: Rebecca Ferguson – Singer/Songwriter and Activist; Dame Heather Rabbats – CEO, Time’s Up UK; Sharon Lloyd Barnes – Inclusion Lead, Advertising Association; Leanne Maskell – Model and Author; Zelda Perkins – Author.
Rebecca Ferguson spoke about harassment issues within the creative industries, describing how “there’s no regulation, there’s no standards set… so human beings are behaving the way human beings behave when there are no codes of conduct or standards set.”
Sharon Lloyd Barnes’ campaigns within the advertising industry highlights a concerning figure – that 5% of 16,000 people having been victims of sexual harassment. She recognised that these issues affect all demographics, but those “particularly affected were women, people from black and Asian talent and also disabled talent within the industry.” Her work with the timeTo campaign centred on introducing anti-harassment training, which she claims is vital in defining what sexual harassment exists, whilst raising awareness within the industry.
Zelda Perkins’ work with Can’t Buy My Silence battles issues surrounding Non-Disclosure Agreements. Speaking on business’ fear of losing their reputation, she argued that we need to change the narrative around reputation and encourage those in power to support victims in their workplaces: “The most important thing that we need to encourage is for the powerful, the people in positions of management, to understand that actually their reputation will grow and will be safer if they are protecting their workers and their talent.”
For Heather Rabbats, there is a broader cultural change that needs to take place. “Who holds the reins of power is fundamentally important,” she said, explaining that introducing new legislation and creating a new set of standards is crucial in holding people to account.
Speaking on her personal experience in the modelling industry, Leanne Maskell said: “I studied law to understand my rights, and then I was very surprised to learn that these don’t exist at all in the creative industry.” When asked whether she thought the fashion industry was progressing, she felt positive it was: “It’s been really amazing to be able to do that job in a way where people just treat me really nicely. I can ask for what I need and set these boundaries and be heard and listened to.”
Jen Smith moved the conversation towards long-term cultural changes, asking the panel what they wanted to see change in the creative industries.
“I think the Government needs to urgently do an enquiry,” Rebecca proposed, calling for greater repercussions for those committing the offences. “The people who are perpetrating these things, they need to be named and they need to pay for what they have done within the law.”
For both Sharon and Zelda, it’s about not remaining complicit and silent. “I don’t think it’s enough anymore to say I didn’t know that was going on,” Sharon said, “because I think that’s not true.” Zelda expanded on this, calling for a retraining of behaviours: “We need to learn not to be silent bystanders… if you say something, you know that two or three other people in that room will back you up.”
Focusing on the modelling industry, Leanne called for safer practices: “Require agencies to have regulations and then that means that everyone knows who is legitimate and who is not.” Heather expanded on this call for legislation, calling for greater regulation and licensing, whether in the form of NDAs or in preventing online abuse.
Reaching the end of the discussion, Jen asked the panel what words they have for people who are going through instances of workplace bullying and harassment.
Rebecca spoke on her personal experiences, highlighting her struggle to be heard: “That is what you are coming up against – people with power and money, and money to pay off whoever they choose, and that’s why it’s so important that the government gets involved.”
The panel all spoke in agreement on the need to talk to someone trusted. “If you are legally confused about where you stand,” Zelda said, “there is a free service offered by a fantastic organisation called Rights of Women, set up to help you, give you advice, and tell you where your rights are.”
“The climate has changed,” Heather reflected, “and it will continue to change. Now when these issues are raised, it is much harder for them to be swept under the carpet. Alarm bells start ringing and we need to ring those alarm bells louder and louder.”
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