AfroFIA - News details

24.10.2018

Tackling Sexual Harassment: a look at Equity UK’s strategy to create Safe Spaces

“Enough is enough!” was the message emerging from FIA when issuing its unanimously approved Declaration on Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation in the Entertainment and Media Industries in Zagreb in November 2017. As stated by FIA President Ferne Downey in the declaration: “The scandal involving Harvey Weinstein revealed problems that were all too familiar to women - and men - in our industry. We know that sexism in our industry is real. We know that there are sexual harassers who use their power to intimidate. And we know that this needs to change. And as union leaders we are taking a stand – we seek nothing less than a major cultural shift. We will develop a long term strategy towards a zero-tolerance and harassment-free work environment.”

FIA’s members and sister organisations have found different ways of tackling sexual harassment in the sector, and we have created a dedicated resource section to bring together the many interesting and inspiring examples shared from across the globe. In addition, we want to take a closer look at how such tools and strategies are developed and carried out at national level. This month, we are reporting about Equity UK’s remarkable work to fight sexual harassment and promote safe spaces.

Equity UK has a long experience in campaigning against racism, discrimination and prejudice since 1967. Their work on sexual harassment started with a survey in collaboration with the Federation of Entertainment Unions in the UK in 2013. More than 4000 members replied to the survey. The results of the study reveals an attitude of accepting bullying because "there is always someone else hungry to take your place if you complain", especially for freelance or short-term workers who have even lesser work stability. The complete report, based on the survey results, is titled Creating without Conflict and was published in November 2013.

Responding to the survey findings, a working group set up by Equity UK developed a Campaign called Safe Spaces. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness, and help members to tackle and report unacceptable behavior by giving them the necessary support to do so. This campaign includes a full and detailed report called Agenda for change. It provides a guide for all workers in the entertainment industry to create a workplace free of bullying and harassment, and includes a dedicated helpline and a statement to read out loud at the start of every production's practice period.

Another highly valuable tool developed by Equity UK is the Manifesto for Casting. Equity UK understands very well how challenging a performers’ career path is and this path begins with auditions. The manifesto rules the casting process by following the cast member step by step. January 2018 saw a significant step forward thanks to Equity UK's efforts: the key points of the manifesto were included in the new code of conduct of the Casting Directors' Guild (CDG). 

Equity UK’s strategy to create harassment-free work spaces is a strong and inspiring example for performers unions worldwide. The message is very clear: “Every single one of us is entitled to work in a safe space: a space free of fear, a space free of bullying and harassment of any kind. We will work together honouring our differences and celebrating the gifts we each bring to the table. We will treat one another with politeness and respect at all times and, if we are subjected to or witness bullying or harassment, we will speak out knowing that our voices will be heard and we will be taken seriously. Together we can create a safe space.” says Equity President Maureen Beattie.