Closing The Gap

Why this senior film industry executive is hopeful that the era of ignoring sexual misconduct is at an end

Over the past six months and beyond, the spotlight on women's rights has stayed switched on. From people taking to the streets to raise awareness, to speaking out about sexual misconduct, and movements like #MeToo and Time's Up gathering momentum — it's safe to say that the gender equality discussion is here to stay.

Even though a lot still needs to be done, the CEO of a leading U.K. entertainment body spoke to CNBC on Tuesday about how the era of "the casting couch" and turning a blind eye to sexual harassment could be nearing its end.

"Fingers crossed, I think the strength and power of this movement from one side of the globe to the other is so strong, that I think the attitudes have taken an absolute swerve left," Amanda Nevill, CEO of the British Film Institute (BFI), said.

"So, I think what it's done is it has really empowered men and women to say, 'Actually, we don't want it to be like this.'"

BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill
David M. Benett | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill

Last October, the entertainment industry was rocked after The New York Times published an investigation uncovering sexual harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Following the initial report, further allegations surrounding Weinstein and other men in the industry flooded in, with ramifications occurring for many of those accused. Weinstein has repeatedly denied accusations of non-consensual sex.

The stream of sexual misconduct allegations that have come out of Hollywood and other major global industries sparked the rallying of the #MeToo campaign, allowing ordinary women to shed light on discriminatory sexual behavior and inequality, and the Time's Up movement, which campaigns for those affected, in order to bring about change.

While a lot has happened in a relatively short period, Nevill highlighted how now isn't the time for people to let their collective guard down.

"Back in the 1980s, at the beginning of my career — you know, we had the shoulder pads, we were right out there, and we thought that we'd cracked it. So to be talking about it 30 (or so) years on and suddenly realizing that it's an issue," she said, highlighting how sexual misconduct and inequality has been topical for decades and still needs tackling.

Speaking more broadly, Nevill underlined how the movie and television industry "is absolutely not balanced" when it comes to gender and inclusion, and therefore doesn't reflect society as a whole. She added that a drive to improve and completely change this was both economically and absolutely crucial.

"I think in a way it's one of the most frustratingly difficult things to make change. So I'm a leader, my job is to make change and to make things happen — and with inclusion, you can't just flick a button and do one thing."

Steps are being taken in the U.K., as elsewhere, to combat this. In February, the BFI and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) teamed up to launch new guidelines to tackle harassment and bullying in the sector. The organizations will introduce a confidential support line in April to help those who work in the industry, while working with industry partners to provide advice and training.

BFI also has its own "Diversity Standards," which means that if groups want funding from the BFI, then they have to implement diversity in front of and behind the camera, as well as within the story itself. So for this CEO, it's about changing the industry's outlook on how to approach and embrace inclusion.

"It's about changing an entire mindset, it's about changing a whole attitude," Nevill said. "It's actually about lifting blinkers and seeing the world in a different way."

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