Sexual harassment at the workplace is finally not a taboo topic anymore. The actresses and models who dared to speak up about Harvey Weinstein‘s inappropriate behavior and abuse paved the way for many others to open up about their experiences with sexual abuse. Models continue to spread awareness surrounding sexual abuse and as a result, famous photographers, producers, and other influential figures have been fired from their positions. The sexual abusers get called out on social media, but is that enough to put an end to this kind of inappropriate behavior?
The Model Alliance finally took things a step further by presenting the “Respect Program”, an agreement designed to protect models at work. The Model Alliance was founded in 2012 by former model Sara Ziff. The organization focuses on “fair treatment, equal opportunity, and sustainable practices in the fashion industry, from the runway to the factory floor.” With the “Respect Program”, the organization is on a mission to hold the abusers accountable for their actions. The plan “provides a blueprint for protecting models and their colleagues from harassment.” Not only that this program is expected to protect the models from harassment but also provides a blueprint to create a safe working environment for everyone.
“We believe that if a company is serious about protecting us, it will be willing to go beyond mere premises to do better and embrace enforceable standards, with real teeth. Together, we will enable a working environment in which creative collaboration and self-expression flourishes, and everyone can work without fear of harassment, abuse, discrimination or violence,” states the open letter on the program’s website.
The open letter is specially designed to bring improvements in the fashion industry. The letter has been signed by more than 100 supermodels including Karen Elson, Teddy Quinlivan, Eddie Campbell, Milla Jovovich, and Doutzen Kroes.
The agreement calls for Code of Conduct. If a person violates the Code, the company needs to cut ties with that person.
“Participating fashion brands and publishing companies will give business preference to other participants that are signatories to the Program,” the open letter states.
The “Respect Program” also requires training sessions to educate companies and individuals how to provide a safe working environment. Besides spreading awareness about sexual harassment, the training will highlight health and wellness standards. Topics such as eating disorders, nutrition, and substance abuse will also be covered.
The program will ask companies to closely monitor the workplaces and provide a safe place for everyone involved to file a complaint. Although every company has a policy and rules that cover such things, obviously they didn’t put an end to the harassment.
“We know from this experience that voluntary standards and corporate self-policing don’t work. Real change requires enforceable standards and independent oversight,” Professor Suzanne Goldberg of Columbia University Law School, who was involved in designing the “Respect Program” explained. “It is not enough to fire one or another famous abuser. Ending harassment requires a comprehensive solution,” the founder Sara Ziff added.
In the following weeks, The Model Alliance will present the “Respect Program” to fashion entities of every kind as well as media companies.