The Washington Post (and other news media) reported on Tuesday that Jennifer Lawrence is speaking out about the wage gap she discovered after the Sony hacked emails were leaked…and is done worrying about being likeable. As the Post outlined:
After hackers leaked thousands of e-mails from Sony Pictures bigwigs last year, Jennifer Lawrence, arguably America’s most marketable actress, learned she earned significantly less money than her male co-stars in 2013’s award-winning “American Hustle.”
Lawrence initially stayed silent as the release turbo-charged the debate over equal pay in Hollywood. But on Tuesday, she shared her reaction in an essay for Lenny, Lena Dunham’s new newsletter.
“Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves,” Lawrence wrote. “If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”
The e-mails confirmed her fears.
“Another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a ‘spoiled brat,’” she wrote. “For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.”
As the Post notes,
Lawrence, who made about $52 million in Forbes’s most recent 12-month count and became Hollywood’s most highly paid actress, acknowledges her struggle isn’t “relatable” to the average working woman. But the gender wage gap persists in virtually every occupation, ultra-prestigious and entry-level. In 2014, women working full-time jobs made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a difference of 21 percent. The disparities widen across racial lines: Black women made 64 cents and Hispanic women made 54 cents for every dollar earned by white men. A recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicts U.S. women won’t reach pay parity with men until 2058. Women in entertainment and media, roles with high visibility and social influence, take home about 85 percent of their male colleagues’ pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Hollywood, the mirror in which we reflect our cultural values, for better or worse, several actresses have condemned the inequity on principle. Amanda Seyfried told the Sunday Times in July she was once paid 10 percent of what her male co-star of equal fame received. After blasting the wage gap during her Oscars acceptance speech, Patricia Arquette told David Letterman in March, “It’s just strange in 2015 that we’re living like we’re in 1915.”
A rare, high-profile flash of pay transparency, courtesy of the Sony hack, shows no woman is immune. Andrew Gumpert, a Columbia Pictures executive, wrote to Sony heads in a 2013 e-mail about the “points,” or back-end compensation, that Lawrence and her co-stars would receive on “American Hustle,” which grossed more than $251 million worldwide. Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner would earn 9 percent. Lawrence and Amy Adams, who’d received more Academy Award nominations than her male colleagues, would earn 7 percent. Gumpert noted this was “unfair,” but the numbers never changed.
I have had many reactions since I read Jennifer’s letter ranging from anger to frustration to empathy to delight. I am angered by the fact that she blames herself. In fact, many young women are afraid to negotiate, justifiably worried about the backlash. And I am empathetic because, of course, we all want to be liked, particularly by the people who determine our pay. And I am delighted that she has decided to get over it. [Tips for how to minimize backlash are outlined here.]
“I’m over trying to find the “adorable” way to state my opinion and still be likable! F..k that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard.”
Finally, I am also frustrated that when men see the unfair wage gap, they do nothing. Structurally, there is only so much that “leaning in” will do. Those in charge need to do better. If you don’t want your daughter or your wife or your sister getting underpaid, then speak up and change it. Bystanders, those who are in power who could change things and choose to do nothing, are perpetuating the system. Let’s not pretend that they are less guilty than the woman who doesn’t even know she is being underpaid. We can’t all wait for our salary to be leaked by hackers to confirm our worst fears.