Prior to being portrayed by Kerry Washington in 2016's Confirmation (HBO), few people would’ve associated esteemed attorney and academic Anita Hill with Hollywood. Understandably, the longtime professor of women’s studies and social policy and law in Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management had largely stayed out of the spotlight after reluctantly entering it in 1991 to share her story of sexual harassment with the Senate Judiciary Committee (then infamously chaired by now-President-elect Joe Biden) amid the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, to no avail.
After being excoriated by both the committee and in the media, it would be 25 years before Hill would once again enter the national conversation, as Washington and HBO revived the contentious hearings for the screen. But as Hill told TheWrap’s Power Women Summit during her December 8 keynote address, it was another woman’s testimony that compelled her to publicly reengage in the fight to quell sexual predation.
Per The Wrap:
The event took place after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that he had sexually assaulted her. Hill called it a “grim period” but was emboldened after hearing from many survivors during the summit.
“All of the practices in the world are not going to work unless people trust them. So we’ve got to build a values-based system and, perhaps most importantly of all, we have to ensure accountability,” Hill said on Tuesday as she opened this year’s virtual summit, annually presented by the WrapWomen Foundation and billed as “the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology.”
“We can be better in the entertainment industry,” Hill added. “But to do that we have to make changes.”
In 2021, she will be implementing one of those changes, partnering with the Hollywood Commission to launch an app designed to identify and hold accountable serial abusers in the entertainment industry—and most importantly, to preemptively protect those who might encounter them.
More from The Wrap:
The app—which was announced in September—will essentially help identify potential repeat offenders in the industry by allowing people to submit—initially anonymously—complaints of sexual harassment, abuse, or other forms of misconduct.
“When a complaint about the same person comes into the system, [the complainant] will be notified,” Hill explained during her summit appearance. “That way we can offer individuals a chance to come forward with the support and knowing that someone else has experienced the same problem.”
The hope? That collective reporting and empathy will empower survivors and put predators on notice—or potentially in jail, as individuals are emboldened and encouraged to report. As Hill further explained, it’s one component of the power of representation, though far from the last that needs to be addressed in Hollywood and beyond; a message in keeping with this year’s summit theme: “Inclusion 360.”
“We know that in order for change to be real, to be effective, it has to include everyone,” Hill said. “We know that diversity and inclusion cannot be seen as an add-on. It has to be integral to every part of the way we conduct business and the way we lead.”
A full stream of the Power Women Summit is available to view online.