It’s what we’ve been waiting for, right? For someone to do something, ANYTHING, as the Hollywood sex scandal rolls on. There have been some high profile firings, yes. But real, systemic change? Hasn’t happened yet. In fact, there are signs it might not happen at all. (This is what I fear. That after the firings stop, which they will, eventually, the problem gets plastered over and nothing changes. Louis CK will be back in a year, turning his exile into new material for his comeback tour, and nothing about the comedy world or club culture will be different. Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose are gone, but who else lingers in the newsroom with a history of rumors and settlements? They’re still just working through it one bad apple at a time. No one is cutting down the tree.)
But ICM Partners, one of the big agencies, is taking steps to create fundamental change in their culture. And just like Ed Skrein giving up a white-washed role, what they are doing sets a precedent for the other agencies—make your own changes or explain why you’re doing nothing when others are doing something. ICM is committing to “50/50 by 2020”, a goal of creating gender parity in their corporate culture. They’re aiming to have all their departments and partner group at gender parity within the next two years. That is GREAT, and it should be noted that ICM is already more than halfway to their goal, with above-average numbers of women working in their various departments and already having executive roles. They don’t have to overhaul their entire culture—which is maybe why they have escaped the current climate relatively unscathed—they just have to commit to finding the candidates and hiring/promoting them.
Apparently the idea came from Shonda Rhimes, an ICM client. She suggested it to agency chief Chris Silbermann, citing gender parity as the “answer” to fixing the (many) problems plaguing agencies and Hollywood. Rhimes says she heard about “50/50 by 2020” from Jill Soloway, who heard it from “elsewhere”. That “elsewhere”? Secret meetings being held at rival agency CAA, where a group of industry women have been meeting under the banner “Time’s Up!”. According to Richard Rushfield of The Ankler newsletter, they’ve been meeting since the scandal broke, and “50/50 by 2020” is their mantra. Jill Soloway and Shonda Rhimes are both named in that group, as are Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, and Kathleen Kennedy. Why they haven’t gone public is a total mystery—they won’t even acknowledge the group in this report about ICM’s steps toward real progress, which seems to be a direct result of their meetings.
But the question now is if anyone else follows ICM’s lead. WME has already shown they’re not super interested in change or self-improvement, by bringing back Adam Venit after Terry Crews accused him of sexual assault (Crews is now suing). CAA has largely kept its figurative head down. Will either of the biggest, most powerful agencies take similar action? Will there be any on-the-record commitment to doing better—being better? I hope so. I really do. But I still cannot shake the feeling that the boys club is just waiting for the furor to pass before it’s back to business as usual.