There may be something of a silver lining to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and it comes in the form of one very astute, formidable woman: Maria Contreras-Sweet.
The businesswoman, who led the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, has launched a $275 million bid for the Weinstein company, but she’s laid down some pretty distinct parameters.
Under the bidding terms, investors aligned with Contreras-Sweet have agreed that she serve as executive chairwoman, with a majority female board, and a fund be set up for victims of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assault.
In a letter to the company’s current board of directors, Contreras-Sweet wrote:
“As a long-time business leader and advocate for gender and racial equality, I have been profoundly affected by the recent revelations surrounding this Company’s leadership. You must care, as I do, about the women who have suffered the indignities inflicted upon them.”
The letter goes on to observe the need for change, and Contreras-Sweet’s vision to reform the beleaguered company.
“I believe we have now reached a crossroads where it is imperative that a woman-led board acquire control of the Company and create content that continues to inspire audiences around the world.”
Weinstein, who co-chaired the company with his brother Bob, was sacked last month when a hoard of sexual assault charges were levelled against him. In the weeks since, the floodgates have opened with more women (and men) coming forward with similar allegations against a number of high-profile men in Hollywood, including Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and Ed Westwick.
It’s fair to say that Hollywood is in a state of long-overdue flux.
Contreras-Sweet’s bid for the Weinstein Company and the terms in which she’s made it, is yet another example of how charges of sexual harassment and assault are paving the way for an entirely new status quo– one where women play a more dominant and defining role in the film industry’s future.
Last week, Reece Witherspoon spoke up at the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s Innovator awards about the need for more women in Hollywood to take the reins and lead in light of the Harvey Weinstein case and the industry’s ‘ugly truth’.
“We’ve been dealing with some really ugly truth of sexism and sexual harassment, and it has been rampant for far longer than I have been an actress, and it’s brought back a lot of painful memories for people,” she said.
“It’s been a real time of reckoning for us and there is a definitely a growing realisation that we need to take the time to really examine the biases that exist in our industry and make much needed change because this is not an issue about actors and actresses, this is a bigger issue about power.”
Witherspoon who launched production company, Pacific Standard– responsible for a number of highly acclaimed films and series with powerful female leads, urged industry leaders to recognise and reflect upon the vast benefits of leadership diversity.
“I think we have to turn a critical eye about female leadership in Hollywood and whether that’s encouraged or even allowed because you can’t have accountability or awareness of different perspectives if women are not at the decision-making table.”
One thing’s for certain, if Contreras-Sweet becomes the new face of the Weinstein Company, Hollywood’s likely to see a whole lot more women at that table.