The Hollywood Pay Gap: Why Should We Care?
“Mark Wahlberg was at No. 1 on the actors’ list with $68 million, while the highest-earning actress, Emma Stone, made a comparatively paltry $26 million” according to Vanity Fair.
Last week saw the celebs out in full force at the uber-fancy Met Gala in New York - you’ve probably been drooling over the outrageous costumes just like us - so what better time to take a look at the financial side of Hollywood. It might all seem kind of irrelevant to the lives we lead (I mean, even buying a ticket to the gala costs about $30k, and it’s the same amount again to buy a suitable couture gown. And did you hear about Gigi Hadid’s two grand manicure?).
But actually, the money lives of the rich and famous do have some bearing on our little lives. And it’s all about our old friend the gender pay gap. Because when you look at the differing paygrades of Hollywood’s biggest stars, it paints an alarmingly clear picture about the entrenched nature of gender imbalance, and what we can do about it. A picture we should all be looking hard at.
As you know (if you’ve been reading Vestpod!), the gender pay gap in most jobs isn’t actually about women working in identical roles to men but being paid less: it’s about the unfair way women’s careers at top companies are structured. However in the movie business, male and female actresses really are doing the exact same job: you know, learning lines, being told change their body shape, wearing uncomfortable costumes, being sexually harassed by their superiors… it’s perhaps the only career where the sexes are equal.
And yet… well, we’ve all heard the stories about Michelle Williams getting a thousand dollars to re-shoot her movie scenes, while her male co-star commanded upwards of a million.
These figures reveal the true cost of being a woman in today’s world. But the good news is, the studios are final being called out on these unfair working practices, with the long overdue “Time’s Up” movement.
In a bold move that blazes a trail for women in all walks of life, an increasing group of actors - female and male – are refusing to work on productions with unfair wages. And their voices have become so powerful (thank you social media!) that even Mr Wahlberg ended up giving that cheeky one and a half mill he netted to help fund the campaign.
And there’s another lesson we can learn from all this – women need to learn to negotiate more money. Wahlberg, for example, is known in the business as being a really tough negotiator. And he’s not the only male actor with that reputation. But as you’ll know if you’ve been reading Vestpod (or are a woman who has ever had a job!), a woman asking for more money is not considered ambitious but difficult. A bitch, not a big-shot. Maddening, right? But step by step we can show our true (positive) colours, and model a confident, strong self-image for the younger women coming up ahead of us.
So let’s follow the example of those glamourpusses across the pond and start putting across our case for a pay rise in our own boardrooms. Remember, it’s often as simple as doing your homework (about other salaries in comparable jobs) and keeping a cool head in those tricky meetings. And who knows – with your new salary increase, this time next year you too could be wasting $2,000 on a crystal embellished manicure at the Met Gala!