Can Hollywood solve its gender pay disparity issue?
In recent years, a few actresses have come forward to talk about their experience with gender pay disparity in Hollywood. Income inequality between men and women has been going on for decades. According to research done by the U.S. 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.
Recent research by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee revealed that actresses in Hollywood earn an average of $1 million less per film than their male counterparts when they are working on the same project.
There have been cases of staggering underpayment of female actors. For her role in “The Martian,” Jessica Chastain was reportedly paid approximately $1.75 million while her co-star Matt Damon reportedly made about $25 million.
Mark Wahlberg faced heavy 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 spiral further when it was further revealed that he demanded to be paid $1.5 million for reshoots following the Kevin Spacey scandal, while Williams was reportedly paid less than $1,000. The backlash got so bad that Wahlberg ended up donating 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 will not be appearing in Scream 6. She openly stated that the reason she came to this decision is that she felt the offer made was not equal to the value she has brought to the franchise in the past 25 years. In her interview with People magazine, she said she felt it was high time for her as a woman in the film industry to fight for her value. She termed the gender pay gap in Hollywood as unfair and sexist.
Ellen Pompeo who plays Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy is one of the highest-paid actresses in a prime-time drama. She, however, didn’t get to this feat easily. Her 2018 interview with Variety shocked many people when she revealed that she nearly quit the hit medical drama because of the pay gap between her and Patrick Dempsey.
According to her, Dempsey was being paid almost double what she was making. She talked of the inner conflict she went through every time they denied her request for equal compensation. She added that this experience taught her how to negotiate her pay and demand her worth.
She also was a part of a panel discussion with Gabrielle Union and Gina Rodriguez and she didn’t mince her words on this issue. On the other hand, Rodriguez and Union talked about their struggles as coloured women negotiating for fair compensation in Hollywood. Union spoke about the reality of the pressure that comes with demanding fair pay. She also spoke about how undervalued she felt on set, “I’m not going to feel good on set if I feel like I am undervalued and my money doesn’t match my level contribution.’’
Negotiations and contracts
Negotiation of contracts is a hard thing to do in Hollywood because of the lack of transparency and secret back-end deals by corporate executives. There are many things considered while negotiating contracts in the film industry . The actors’ experience, the success of the previous series/shows, and other mitigating factors.
In some cases, these women don’t even know that they are being underpaid. Pompeo said she only learned of the pay gap during the renegotiation of the actors’ contract in season 3.
In some cases, actresses are not even paid the 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 the back-end money for her work in “Something’s Gotta Give.”
Bryce Dallas Howard said upon learning she was being paid way less than Chris Pratt, there was nothing she could do. The contract was a done deal and she had to do three movies for the Jurassic Park franchise. The only things she could negotiate on were stuff that had not been covered in the contract such as theme-park rides and video games.
The overall effects of these gender pay disparities
In 2018, Forbes named Scarlett Johansson and George Clooney the highest-paid female and male actors respectively. Johansson had earned $40.5 million while Clooney had earned $239 million that year. This is a clear example of how these pay disparities affect wealth accumulation and reduce women’s earning capacity over the years. It makes it hard 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. Given women work equal hours to their male counterparts, should they be paid equally for the value they bring to the project? Some would say yes.
What is being done?
As more female actors come out to publicly speak of these issues, young upcoming actresses are learning what to do and ask for in their negotiations. These discussions are forcing the people behind these executives’ decisions to step up their game and offer actresses what they deserve.
Male co-stars are gladly joining the fight too and some are stepping up to take pay cuts. Actors such as Chris Pratt are supporting their female counterparts in their negotiation talks.
Emma Stone has also openly spoken about her experience in negotiating for equal pay with her male co-stars. She stated that throughout her career, her male co-stars have had to get a pay cut so that they can be at parity. She thanked them for agreeing to the pay cuts saying it helped change her life. She believes that was part of the reason she was able to be named the world’s highest-paid actress in 2017.
As Hollywood works on addressing this issue, more artists will likely speak up, leading to a much fairer distribution of pay. The fact that male actors are taking a firm stand in solidarity with their female counterparts seems to indicate that this may well 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!