How Hollywood can-continue to advance the-equal pay conversation

The way equal pay is talked about in Hollywood has been evolving for some time, with many ...

Posted: Apr 11, 2018 10:56 AM
Updated: Apr 11, 2018 10:56 AM

The way equal pay is talked about in Hollywood has been evolving for some time, with many outspoken women standing up for the effort in recent years.

But in the aftermath of Hollywood's sexual harassment reckoning, more substantive conversations about gender equality, broken systems and power structures have ushered in a more open dialogue about pay in Hollywood. More specifically, who's getting less of it.

There is no more fitting time than Equal Pay Day to take stock of the quest to make sure women and minorities are being compensated fairly for their work, and reflect on how Hollywood is working to make sure that the fervor with which the industry pursues that goal doesn't dwindle over time.

Here's are three ways Hollywood can continue on its path to gender pay parity.

Keep talking numbers

At the start of the new year, some stunning figures brought Hollywood's pay problem into clear focus.

USA Today reported Tuesday-that Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million to reshoot his scenes in "All the Money in the World," while co-star Michelle Williams received a per diem of $80 per day, totaling less than $1,000.

The backlash was swift, with Williams drawing support from fellow actresses like Sophia Bush, Amber Tamblyn and Jessica Chastain.

Five days later, Wahlberg announced he was donating his reshoot earnings to the Time's Up legal defense fund.

"If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice," Williams' statement read in part, following the announcement of her co-star's donation in her name.

With a clearer view of how stark the problem is, the pay disparity discussion turned arguable more candid than it ever has been before.

That same month, Octavia Spencer got emotional while speaking about the help she received from Jessica Chastain while negotiating their salary for an upcoming film, an effort that resulted in the women receiving five times their asking price. (Her story also highlighted the larger disparity that exists for women of color.)

Weeks later, we learned even the Queen isn't safe from gender-related pay disparity, as producers of Netflix's The Crown admitted its star Claire Foy was paid less than Matt Smith, who played Prince Philip.

The claim that won't happen in future seasons, with executive producer Suzanne Mackie declaring: "Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen.

"Transparency is key," says Kirsten-Schaffer is the executive director of-Women In Film, an organization that promotes gender parity in Hollywood.

So important, in fact, that Schaffer thinks a major evolution is needed in how Americans view the subject of money and pay. Talking about money is viewed as uncomfortable, even rude, she told CNN, but that has to change.

"That's what we've learned through the examples of the last few months -- that women have learned from their male colleagues how much their making and also what they're not making -- and that's why it has to change as an American value," she said.

Include workers from all levels in the conversation

Time's Up and advocates within the organization have in recent months lent their voices to a number of causes outside the Hollywood industry, perhaps most notably the One Fair Wage effort. Actresses like Williams and Amy Poehler were among those who spoke in favor of legislation to push for better pay and better working conditions for restaurant and service industry workers.

Since its inception, Time's Up has emphasized the need for a wider conversation about pay parity and how it affects women in all industries.

There are minimum wage and slightly above minimum wage workers within the Hollywood system who also need help elevating their voices, Schaffer noted.

Art department coordinators recently launched a petition for better wages.

In the petition, the group points out that the some in the female-dominated craft make as little as $15.39 per hour -- or "in some cases that's less than a [production assistant], and in all cases it's more than 50% less than their IATSE comparative working counterparts on the crew."

"We believe that this pay inequality is due to a combination of the craft being female dominated, misunderstood, and disrespected for many years," the petition said.

"I think celebrities having the national stage and pushing the issue forward is important, but I also think that all of us looking in our own backyards is also part of the solution," Schaffer said.

Capture the moment

The most recent pilot season -- during which networks make a single episode of a potential new series for consideration in their fall lineups -- proved a real test for Hollywood's renewed dedication to pay parity.

According to entertainment attorney Nina Shaw, one of the founding members of Time's Up, Hollywood made the grade, largely speaking.

At a recent panel organized by Doyenne, a female-forward networking and advocacy group, Shaw estimated that her clients made about 30% more this pilot season than in the previous year.

That was in part due to a change in California laws that now prohibits-employers from asking job applicants about their-prior salary, she said. Fear of negative press also may have played a part.

"I think people are really scared and a little sensitive. They don't want it in the paper that 'so and so is making a lot less,'" she said. "It's really bad optics."

That increase was, of course, not the case for everyone. It is, however, a good sign that networks were willing to make moves to close the gap. (HBO announced recently that they'd taken steps to close their own gaps in certain cases.)

One longtime entertainment attorney noted "there's a transition going on," but warned, "Hollywood forgets quickly...It would be very easy to forget."

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