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Can Hollywood solve the gender pay gap issue?
In recent years, a few actresses have come forward to talk about their experience with the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Income inequality between men and women has been going on for decades. According to research done by the US Census Bureau, women earn 83 cents for every dollar men earn. As much as women are underpaid in every profession, Hollywood has one of the most egregious cases.
Differences in salaries
Recent research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee revealed that actresses in Hollywood earn an average of $1 million less per film than their male counterparts when working on the same project.
There have been cases of underpayment of female actors. For her role in “The Martian,” Jessica Chastain was reportedly paid around $1.75 million while her co-star Matt Damon reportedly made around $25 million.
Mark Wahlberg faced a backlash when it was reported that he was paid eight times more than Michelle Williams for their work in “All the Money in the World.” These figures only went back further when it was revealed that he asked to be paid $1.5 million for reshoots after the Kevin Spacey scandal, while Williams was reportedly paid less than $1,000. The reaction was so bad that Wahlberg ended up giving away the money he earned from the reshoots.
Bryce Dallas Howard recently spoke about the pay gap between her and Chris Pratt for their work on the Jurassic World franchise. According to news reports, Howard was paid more than two million dollars less than her male counterpart Pratt.
Neve Campbell recently made headlines when she announced that she would not be appearing in Scream 6. She openly stated that the reason she came to this decision is that she felt that the offer that was made was not equal to the value that she brought to the franchise in the last 25 years. In her interview with People magazine, she said that she feels that the time has come that as a woman in the film industry she fights for her worth. She called the gender pay gap in Hollywood unfair and sexist.
Ellen Pompeo who plays Meredith Gray in Grey’s Anatomy is one of the highest paid actresses in a prime time drama. She, however, did not come to this feat easily. Her 2018 interview with Variety shocked many when she revealed that she almost left the hit medical drama due to the pay gap between her and Patrick Dempsey.
According to her, Dempsey was being paid almost double what she was making. She talked about the internal conflict she went through every time they rejected her request for equal compensation. She added that this experience taught her how to negotiate her salary and demand her value.
She was also part of a panel discussion with Gabrielle Union and Gina Rodriguez and did not mince her words on this matter. On the other hand, Rodriguez and Union spoke about their struggles as women of color negotiating for fair compensation in Hollywood. Union spoke about the reality of the pressure that comes when asking for a fair wage. She also spoke about how undervalued she felt on set, “I won’t feel good on set if I feel that I’m undervalued and my money doesn’t match my level of contribution.”
Negotiations and contracts
Negotiating contracts is a difficult thing to do in Hollywood due to the lack of transparency and secret back-end deals by corporate executives. There are many things to consider while negotiating contracts in the film industry. Actors’ experience, success of previous series/shows, and other mitigating factors.
In some cases, these women don’t even know they are being underpaid. Pompeo said she only found out about the pay gap during the renegotiation of the actors’ contract in season 3.
In some cases, the actresses are not even paid back-end money from the profits of their projects. This was the case for Diane Keaton who, unlike her co-star Jack Nicholson, never received a back pay for her work in “Something’s Gotta Give.”
Bryce Dallas Howard said that when she found out she was being paid much less than Chris Pratt, there was nothing she could do. The contract was a done deal and she was to make three films for the Jurassic Park franchise. The only things she could negotiate on were things not covered in the contract such as theme-park rides and video games.
The overall effects of these gender pay gaps
In 2018, Forbes named Scarlett Johansson and George Clooney the highest paid female and male actors respectively. Johansson earned $40.5 million while Clooney earned $239 million that year. This is a clear example of how these wage differences affect wealth accumulation and reduce women’s earning capacity over the years. It makes it difficult for them to make higher quotes for their future projects and be able to demand fair compensation.
It also leaves these female actors feeling undervalued for their hard work. Because women work equal hours to their male counterparts, should they be paid equally for the value they bring to the project? Some say yes.
What is being done?
As more female actors come forward to speak publicly about these issues, young up-and-coming actresses are learning what to do and ask for in their negotiations. These discussions are forcing the people behind the decisions of these executives to step up their game and offer the actresses what they deserve.
Male co-stars are also happily joining the fray and some are stepping up to take a pay cut. Actors like Chris Pratt are supporting their female counterparts in their negotiation talks.
Emma Stone also spoke openly about her experience negotiating for equal pay with her male co-stars. She stated that throughout her career, her male co-stars had to take a pay cut so they could be on par. She thanked them for agreeing to the pay cut and said it helped change her life. She believes this was part of the reason she could be named the highest paid actress in the world in 2017.
As Hollywood works to address this issue, more artists will likely speak up, leading to a much fairer distribution of wages. The fact that male actors are taking a firm stand in solidarity with their female counterparts seems to indicate that this may change in the future.
Do you think actresses in Hollywood should be paid the same as their male counterparts? Or are the salary differences fair? Let us know in the comments below!
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