XXTRAordinary Women: The Time’s Up Movement

By Vanessa Williams

Time’s up.

The befitting phrase used for the movement by some of the most powerful women in Hollywood that are letting those in the entertainment industry know that time is up, and they will no longer accept sexual abuse, harassment, and inequality in the workplace. Time’s Up announced its commencement on January 1, 2018 and the movement is using the platform to eradicate sexual harassment and inequality for all women in the workplace, and not just Hollywood. Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, and Meryl Streep are just a few of the women in Hollywood that are using their platforms to bring awareness to the issue.

In the wake of numerous sexual abuse victims coming forward in Hollywood, 700,000 female farmers wrote a letter expressing their solidarity with the women and voicing their experiences with sexual harassment and inequality in their workplace. It was following this that the Time’s Up movement was created to fight for the women that are often ignored or overlooked in blue-collar workplaces. The movement’s mission is to hold wrongdoers accountable, collaborate with advocates to change laws and corporate policies, and achieve gender parity.

Holding Wrongdoers Accountable in the Legal System

On the forefront of the movement is its contribution to help women and men gain access to legal assistance to hold the wrongdoers accountable in the legal system. According to the Time’s Up website, its Legal Defense Fund will subsidize legal support for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation in the workplace. The National Women’s Law Center will oversee the Fund, and legal assistance will be provided through the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity.

The financial resources will provide legal and communications assistance in hopes to empower individuals to speak out against harassment. In less than a month, the Fund has seen plentiful contributions as it received over $16M of its projected goal of $17M.

Fighting a legal battle can be lengthy and expensive, so this plan of action has the potential to benefit those individuals that don’t have the financial means to do so, especially women of color. Individuals that work lower-wage jobs are less likely to speak out against discrimination and sexual harassment as they fear retaliation or losing their jobs. Providing those individuals with legal assistance is a step in the right direction, and could possibly encourage more women to come forward.

Collaborating with Advocates to Improve Laws, Employment Agreements, and Corporate Policies

Subsequently, after individuals find the courage to come forward and file the appropriate paperwork to issue a complaint, many are met with another array of problems associated with the company’s approach to complaints. Many individuals find that some corporate policies and agreements are implemented to protect the liability of the company, and may not be for the best interest of the victims. Time’s Up is bringing awareness to these discrepancies and using its platform to shine the light on these unfair practices.

In December 2017, a group of women from the Time’s Up movement collaborated with Anita Hill to create the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, with the mission to “tackle the broad culture of abuse and power disparity.” While this commission will focus on the entertainment industry, there are hopes that it will become a catalyst to help transform the injustices in the workplace.

Achieving Gender Parity

While much of the emphasis has been on the awful acts of sexual harassment and assault, the Time’s Up movement is also seeking to change the pay inequality and discrimination women experience in the workplace. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2016, when “compared to non-Hispanic white men, white non-Hispanic women are paid 81 cents on the dollar and Asian women are paid 88 cents on the dollar.” However, Black and Hispanic women fared much worse as they are paid only 65 cents and 59 cents on the white male dollar, respectively. In terms of per hour wage penalties, black and Hispanic women made, respectively, $7.63 and $8.90 less per hour in comparison to white non-Hispanic men. This is an alarmingly wide difference in pay, thus, the importance of women coming together in solidarity to receive gender parity, especially women of color.

The well thought out mission and actions initiated by the Time’s Up movement displays the eagerness to make significant change for women in the workplace. However, this is a huge endeavor and it will take all women, not just those in Hollywood, to come together in solidarity to truly see change in the workplace.

Read more about the Time’s Up movement here.