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Hollywood women launch campaign to fight sexual harassment

KEY PLAYERS: Shonda Rhimes and Reese Witherspoon(Photo credit Richard Shotwell/Invision AP and PA Images)

2017 WAS quite the year. A year which exposed the deep-seeded underbelly of Hollywood - beyond the glitz and glam to the grotesque and shocking world of sexual harassment that lies beneath.

From Harvey Weinstein to Russell Simmons, women - and men - are coming out in droves to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of reportedly some of Hollywood's biggest power players. And now they've taken it one step further, to make sure women across different industries are more protected than ever before.

300 prominent actresses, female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives teamed up to launch a sexual health prevention initiative to fight systemic sexual harassment in the workplace.

Called Time's Up, the plan includes a legal defense fund to help women in blue-collar industries protect themselves from sexual misconduct, support for the “50/50 by 2020” effort to bring gender parity to the executive suites at Hollywood studios and talent agencies.

According to the New York Times, although Time's Up has no central leaders, it is made up of numerous committees and includes Shonda Rhimes and Reese Witherspoon among the key players, and its initiatives — which also includes the anti-sexual harassment commission unveiled last month and chaired by Anita Hill — covers legislation, corporate policy, hiring practices and aggregating important resources.

Prominent contributors to the defense fund, currently accepting donations on GoFundMe, include Kerry Washington, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Kate Hudson, Jessica Chasten, and many other women.

In an open letter on the initiative's website, they detail how they plan to accomplish their goals. The letter reads, “We partner with leading advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements, and corporate policies; help change the face of corporate boardrooms and the C-suite; and enable more women and men to access our legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable. No more silence. No more waiting. No more tolerance for discrimination, harassment or abuse.”

In an announcement, Rhimes said: "Earning a living should not come at the cost of anyone’s safety, dignity or morale. Every person should get to work in an environment free from abuse, assault and discrimination. It’s well past time to change the culture of the environment where most of us spend the majority of our day — the workplace.

"Fifty-one percent of our population is female, over 30 percent of our population is of color. Those are important, vital, economically powerfully voices that need to be heard at every level. Time's Up is working to make sure the people walking the corridors of power within the workplace and in politics truly reflect the full mix of America — the real America that looks like and includes all of us.

"Look, this isn't going to be easy but it is right. And fighting for what is right can seem hard. But letting what is wrong become normal is not easier — it is just more shameful."

Time's Up was founded in response to the sexual assault and harassment allegations that have emerged in recent months, beginning with the decades of accounts involving movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

While the focus might be on Hollywood, this could provide as a leading example - and warning - to various industries across the world.

As women face sexual harassment in different environments - corporate to creative - the launch of this initiative and what it represents is a call for accountability - something which hasn't existed in the past and marks a continued effort to make change for women across the world.

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