Spotlight on the Salary Gap

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Gender inequality has been a constant struggle that woman have steadily worked to overcome for decades. Presently, a battle in the ongoing war is taking place on the Hollywood stage. The Me Too and Time’s Up movements have shed light not only on issues involving sexual abuse in Hollywood, but also on the significant pay gap that exists between male and female actors – a gap that exists even in feature films or television series where women have had the equivalent amount of screen time or have appeared in an equivalent number of episodes as their male counterparts.

Many stars have spoken out about the subject on the red carpet as well as in interviews. Gillian Anderson revealed that while playing Dana Scully in the recently revived X-Files, she was initially offered only half the salary of her co-star David Duchovny. Similarly, Tracee Ellis-Ross of Black-ish spoke out about not being rightfully compensated for her Emmy nominated work on the series in comparison to Anthony Anderson. 

Though rumors spread that Ellis-Ross was going to cut back on the amount of Black-ish episodes she appeared in as a result of the pay gap, or even potentially take a role on another show to make up the salary difference, she took to Twitter stating that this was not the case. Her goal for the negotiations, which she described as being awkwardly put into the public eye, was to be “compensated in a way that matches my contribution to a show that I love for many reasons, including the opportunity it allows me to reshape what it is to be a fully realized black woman on TV.”

Anderson and Ellis-Ross have both openly discussed the need to fight for fair pay, and many public figures have since joined in on that fight. During development of a comedy film they would both star in, Jessica Chastain secured a salary five times that which was initially offered for her and Octavia Spencer by presenting the two of them as a united front. Another example of an actor/activist leading the charge is Emma Watson, who founded the gender equality group HeForShe. The initiative not only advocates for equal pay but encourages both sexes to be advocates for equality as well.

Social media has provided the fight for equality and the resulting movements with hashtags, which are helping to signal boost the efforts and encourage people to express their solidarity. However there still is more work to be done, not just in the world of entertainment. If women in one of the most lucrative industries in the world aren’t receiving pay that is equivalent to their male counterparts, it can be assumed that women in other industries are subjected to the same mistreatment. Hopefully, the recent spotlight on Hollywood will be able to reach beyond Tinseltown and shed light on the wage gap and affect change across the board.