Hollywood 2018: Time’s Up–Shonda Rhimes, Withersoon Launch Defense Fund for Women

Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon and other prominent women in the entertainment industry have launched an initiative called Time’s Up whose goal is to protect women facing sexual harassment in the workforce, not just in Hollywood.

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, honored at 2017 Gotham Awards

The plan includes a legal defense fund seeded largely by donations from affluent women, a push for legislation to strengthen laws regarding workplace harassment and discrimination, and renewed backing for the “50/50 by 2020” push to bring parity to the executive suites at Hollywood studios and talent agencies.

The germ of the idea for Time’s Up started with four female CAA agents: Maha Dakhil, Michelle Kydd Lee, Hylda Queally and Christy Haubegger, and then expanded to include women from other prominent talent agencies including Nancy Josephson of WME, Blair Kohan of UTA and Lorrie Bartlett of ICM. Attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan spearheaded the launch of the defense fund.

Time’s Up is also behind the call for women to wear black to the Golden Globes a sign of solidarity with victims of sexual harassment who have come forward with accusations against powerful figures.

The defense fund will be administered by the National Women’s Law Center, according to the Time’s Up website that went live today. The site features an open letter from “over 300 women who work in film, television and theater,” although there are no signatures attached to the message that begins “Dear Sisters.”

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile, every garment and factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate to make a living: We stand with you. We support you,” the letter read.

The group is a loose coalition with numerous committees focused on various tasks but no central leaders.

Rhimes, Witherspoon, Universal Pictures chief Donna Langley and prominent showbiz lawyer Nina Shaw are among the key players. Contributors to the defense fund include Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Stacey Snider, Dana Walden, Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Megan Ellison, Kate Hudson, Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay, Alicia Vikander, Amy Poehler, Olivia Munn, Taylor Swift, Jessica Chastain, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.