Hollywood’s leading ladies on gender and race pay gap

11.12.15 2 years ago

The gender wage gap issue has finally come to the forefront of conversations in Hollywood. Thanks to Jennifer Lawrence's essay and Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech, everyone is talking about an issue that, frankly, has been allowed to endure for far too long.  

Jennifer Lawrence's recent essay really stuck a chord with Hollywood. She's definitely not the first woman to address the discrepancy in pay between actors and actresses, but something about her essay has catalyzed a lot of other women to speak out on this issue. When Oprah Winfrey was asked about Lawrence's comments on the CBS morning show she said, “I think it's a moment in time… I think the conversation has hit a critical moment.” 

Recently, People Magazine asked Sharon Stone her thoughts on the gender pay gap and she shared that, “After 'Basic Instinct,' no one wanted to pay me. I remember sitting in my kitchen with my manager and just crying and saying 'I”m not going to work until I get paid.'”

When Carey Mulligan was asked by USA Today about her stance on the pay gap she said, “It's vital that we're all equally treated. I do hope the conversation around pay in Hollywood has a bigger effect on society as a whole and that it isn't ultimately self-serving. It would be a shame for it to become just a conversation about that.”

Stone and Mulligan aren't alone in wanting to fight for equal pay. In a recent interview with MTV News, Rosario Dawson pointed out that it's not just women who get the brunt of less pay, but women of color. “It”s a very complex situation when you think about what are black women making in comparison to white women, what are Latin women making, what are Asian women making in comparison, and it gets even more convoluted.”

Tony Award winning Anika Noni Rose recently joined the “Make it Work” campaign in an effort to raise awareness about pay inequality. She agrees with Dawson that that the gap for African-American women and Latinas is not getting as much equal attention as Whites in the conversation. Rose does agree with Oprah to an extent about the issue being raised in Hollywood: 

Any time Hollywood talks about something, it's more visible. But wagging tongues and big names don't always mean results. The hope is that it will at least make people who aren't aware of the abuse they're dealing with — and make no mistake, it is abuse — aware, and hopefully strong enough to talk with with each other and band together to force change. Because Hollywood's chatting about it, but Hollywood has yet to rectify this issue in its own house.

Dawson also pointed out that the large disparities in wage also plague other aspects of Hollywood productions. “I”ve worked on a lot of projects where the male lead or even the male and the female lead will get paid millions of dollars and then everyone else gets SAG minimum payment. So even talking about equity, there”s a lot that comes in between it.” 

Sandra Bullock rounds out this conversation by not only drawing attention to the gender wage gap, but the way that women are dealt with in the industry as a whole. She recently told Variety that: 

It”s a bigger issue than money. I know we”re focused on the money part right now. That”s just a byproduct. I keep saying, “Why is it that no one is standing up and saying you can”t say that about a woman?” We”re mocked and judged in the media and articles. Really, how men are described in articles versus women, there”s a big difference. I always make a joke: “Watch, we”re going to walk down the red carpet, I”m going to be asked about my dress and my hair while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues.” Once we start shifting how we perceive women and stop thinking about them as “less than,” the pay disparity will take care of itself. There”s a much bigger issue at hand. I”m glad Hollywood got caught.

However, not all actresses are on the same page. Kate Winslet spoke with the BBC earlier this week and doesn't share the same sentiments as her female co-stars:

I”m having such a problem with these conversations,” Kate tells Newsbeat. “I understand why they are coming up but maybe it”s a British thing. I don”t like talking about money; it”s a bit vulgar isn”t it? I don”t think that”s a very nice conversation to have publically at all. I”m quite surprised by these conversations to be honest, simply because it seems quite a strange thing to be discussing out in the open like that. I am a very lucky woman and I”m quite happy with how things are ticking along.

Whether you agree with Winslet that conversations about money are meant for private discussion, or side with Lawrence who believes women have been conditioned to not fight for equality in wage, the issue is coming to a head. Hopefully Hollywood decision makers are listening. For now at least, Marvel is listening, as Variety pointed out this week that Scarlett Johansson made the same amount of money as two of her co-stars in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans. This is a clearly a step forward and remains part of an ongoing conversation. 

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