64 Percent of Female Writers Have Faced Sexual Harassment, WGAW Study Finds

"We are exploring the possibility of a series of member conversations about standards for a successful writing room," according to a memo sent to members of the guild.
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A "sobering" harassment survey conducted by the Writers Guild of America West has found that 64 percent of the female writers that responded to the study have experienced harassment at some point in their career.

In a memo sent by the WGAW board of directors to members dated May 22, the WGAW additionally reported that 11 percent of male writers had experienced sexual harassment.

The WGAW emphasized that at the Guild hopes to finds ways to "eliminate" harassment and assault in the memo. "We aim to ensure a respectful culture with zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and assault; we want a culture which enables victims to speak up in a safe way that takes their experiences seriously," it said.

A "significant amount" of this harassment occurs in the writers room, the study suggested, and the WGAW aims to address that. "While the Guild is not the employer, that does not exclude us from also addressing this as a union," the memo states. "We are exploring the possibility of a series of member conversations about standards for a successful writing room. By proscribing sexual and other harassment among writers, these standards would enable all the writers in the room to fully participate, rather than being alienated by treatment no one should have to experience. These conversations would also address situations that arise for screenwriters, MOW writers and series writers in professional meeting settings."

The memo also referenced the 2006 California Supreme Court ruling, known as the Friends decision, named after the sitcom of the same name, that ruled that sexually explicit talk in a writers room did not amount to sexual harassment. The WGAW said it is "mistakenly used to justify inappropriate behavior in the workplace."

The organization added, "The decision acknowledges that the creative environment of a writers room may come with crude talk. However, the decision does not permit such talk to be aimed at an individual in the room."

The memo urged members to report any sexual harassment they experience or witness and a guild representative is also available to provide advice and assistance.

It concluded, "The reality is that this problem is too difficult, too long-standing and too deeply-rooted to yield a quick fix. Be assured that we are working every day to determine and implement a full array of responses that will be necessary to eradicate bullying, harassment, and assault in the writing workplace in Hollywood."