Three hundred female Hollywood actors, directors, writers, producers, agents and executives – including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes and Emma Stone – have launched an initiative to help fight sexual harassment in the workplace.

“I’ve always been an introverted person,” Shonda Rhimes says, and she found the fame that came with her television successes to be “daunting.”

The new project, called Time’s Up, includes a $13m (£9.6m) legal defence fund to help women in less privileged professions push back against sexual misconduct in the workplace and any consequences that may follow reporting it.

Time’s Up was announced in a full-page advert in The New York Times and Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, taking the form of an open letter – with the project being described as a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere”. Other supporters include Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Aniston

“The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly,” the letter – also published on the project’s website – read.

The defence fund, which is backed by donations, is aimed primarily at those unable to meet the costs of legal action such as waitresses, nurses and caretakers. It is to be used to help both women and men, and will be administered by the National Women’s Law Center. Donors so far include Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift JJ Abrams and Viola Davis.

However, the fund – which is aiming to raise $15m – is just one step in the project’s action plan to combat harassment. The initiative will also include a push for legislation to penalise companies where persistent harassment takes place, as well as discouraging non-disclosure agreements that can silence victims. The group itself is leaderless and is run by volunteers and made up of working groups tackling a number of issues.



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