#TimesUp on gender equality fails… But, we’re not finished yet.

by Namuli Katumba

In a flurry of conversation around gender equality, sexual harassment and generally just feeling safe and valued in your daily life (please note, this is not a given); there has been a question that has come up in my various circles time and again: Are we doing enough to address gender equality and safety?

I’ve had many a chat/discussion/argument (delete as applicable) around this question, and anyone that knows me or at least follows me on social media will know that I always have ‘opinions’ on gender equality and current affairs. So, I’ve finally decided it’s time to put pen to paper on this.

With the prevalence of the #MeToo and now the #TimesUp movement we’ve seen a particular and almost surgical shake-up of the creative and media industry.

We’ve gone through the motions, almost as a collective. Shock… how could this happen? Denial… It can’t possibly be as bad as everyone is saying, right? Pain… How could this happen in this day and age? Guilt… Well, I personally didn’t know anything like this was happening and I’m shocked TO MY CORE, did you know? Anger… Why wasn’t anyone watching, questioning, talking about or prosecuting these people? Reflection… What could we have done differently?

And now we get to the tricky bit… Acceptance… Hope.

If someone were to give you a timeline on how long it would take for us to scale through these emotions as an individual, we’d be talking about the scope of months, if not years. But when society is dealing with the reverberations of industry-wide scandal… we live on fast-forward.

We want to show that we have recognised the gender equality and safety problem, accepted a solution and have hope for the future. Nay, even resolution.

And so we come to #TimesUp.

I watched Oprah, I applauded the black costumery parade of the Golden Globes, I gasped and nodded to Natalie Portman’s ‘All White Male nominees’ (DAMNNNN, GURLLLL).

Then I settled in to watch what happened next, what’s our next move ladies, and ostensibly gents, how do we keep this momentum going? But, then I felt the sense of finality. I could almost hear the back-slapping of a job well done. Is that it? We’re a few days on and the media is still covering what HAPPENED, not what happens NEXT.

For me, any successful cause shouldn’t just have a big bang or even a graceful result. What makes a campaign great, is how the strategy built for that campaign can continue to be built into a lasting and growing part of an overall initiative or drive.

I would love to see more open conversations on prevention, of measures of protection in the industry. There should be regulatory guidelines that agencies, associations and studios sign up to as a badge of honour that change is being affected, with regards to ‘everyday’ practices.

At Manifest, we work in a way that consistently allows for open conversation around diversity, equality and our well-being. It’s something that, I’m ashamed to say, I take for granted now. Especially, when I think back to my previous life in managed IT services and banking where sexual harassment was so embedded in my everyday life that I didn’t even RECOGNISE it as such anymore. Now I work in a place where equality is a given, with equal representation on our Senior Management team, let alone throughout the agency. Reflecting on my experiences in the wake of the #metoo and #TimesUp movements compared to the natural respect I get now, I realise there is a LOT more work to do than just creating a hashtag and sharing stories.

We should be working TOWARDS better behaviours, not just apologising for PAST wrongs.

We’ve had the solidarity, we’ve had the judge and jury, it’s time for the hard work now people. We need to all be looking at our work environments, not just in the current hotbed of the Film industry, but EVERY industry. Here’s what we promised to commit to for all things gender equality.

We need to accept that the #TimesNotUp, and do more than hope but make time to stand up for change.

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