“Why do I make less than male co-stars?” – Hollywood’s elite on gender pay gap

Even Meryl Streep – one of Hollywood’s most successful actors – receives less pay. During a BBC interview she said: “That [Oscar nomination] doesn’t matter. They will point to the box office, even though Mama Mia has made over a billion dollars, and say that women films don’t sell. I will say it has to do with how films are financed – in the ten top buyers in the US for films in every territory there is not one woman.”

Streep added that if the people that choose what goes into the multiplexes are all of one persuasion, then choice will be limited and it will create a self-fulfilling prophecy

The interview also highlighted that she thought it was harder for men to relate to a female protagonist in films. She said: “I’m not sure why that is. It’s easy for us to imagine ourselves as Tom Sawer, Huckleberry Finn or Peter Pan – I don’t want to be Wendy and I sure don’t want to be Tink. Reading literature as a kid, I’ve always imagined myself as the one that drove the action. It’s much much harder for a man to imagine himself as a woman.”

This was echoed by Emily Blunt in an interview with IndieWire. After appearing in Edge of Tomorrow, Blunt’s name popped up as a candidate for Marvel’s first solo female superhero film, Captain Marvel. Although Blunt suggested that she hadn’t received a formal offer for the part, she did have an idea why her name was being attached to it.

“I think it’s because the list of possible actresses is very short as we don’t see women in these kind of roles,” she said. “As soon as you do an action role rumours circulate – there are maybe four women who keep going for those kind of roles. In the end, they’re like ‘who else? Surely not another girl can wield a gun.'”

Blunt name-checked Theron, Lawrence and Jolie as women who are often attached to female action hero roles, and added that there was such a gender difference because there were more opportunities for men to play not only the hero, but an interesting and distinctive character to boot.

This lack of intriguing roles could be one of the culprits making it harder for men to relate to women.

Meanwhile, despite Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign being founded to encourage equality in the workplace, she has discussed her own experiences too. She told The Guardian: “I have been directed by male directors 17 times and only twice by women. I think my work with the UN has probably made me even more aware of the problems. I went out for a work dinner recently. It was seven men… and me.” 

Watson suggested that she had been lucky in the fact that when she insisted on being treated equally, she won that equality. Most of her problems, she said, have stemmed from the media, where she had been treated differently from her male co-stars.

Her initiative is not a female-only organisation, however, and she’s quick to note that the blame for continuing inequality does not lay at the door of either gender alone.

“Women are just as guilty of discriminating against women,” Watson said. “Some of the best feminists I have encountered are men, like Steve Chbosky who directed me in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and director James Ponsoldt, who I am working with at the moment for The Circle. Some women can be incredibly prejudiced against other women!”

Watch Watson’s amazing speech to men, which emphasises that many of the problems faced by women impact men as well.

However, Natalie Portman is of the belief that young actresses like Lawrence and Kristen Stewart are lessening the outrageous pay gaps in Hollywood.

In an interview with Marie Claire, Portman claimed that while Titanic was a huge hit, Leonardo DiCaprio’s wage immediately went to $20m (£12.6m) per movie, while Kate Winslet’s fell unbelievably short of that amount. 

“But that feels totally like it’s changing,” she said. “I don’t even know who the guys are who are the same age as Lawrence and Stewart.”

Actress Anne Hathaway suggested the same thing during a recent interview – after it was revealed that she has had to start producing films in order to ensure that, in her 30s, she gets to tackle parts of the industry that interest her.

“I think my slate would be a lot more empty if I wasn’t producing,” she said. “The whole industry is a bit embarrassed by the state of things when you look at the numbers.”

But Hathaway, much like Portman, said changes were coming: “I see steps being taken every day – I’ve started producing and whenever we are trying to find a director for it someone will also ask: ‘Where are the women on this list?’

“Sometimes you go a little deeper – maybe they don’t have a feature film yet, they only have a short film – but I think everyone is more aware and I think enough people are trying to make it better that the needle is moving.”

Hathaway suggested that it may take time to secure equal pay for all, but added that there were a lot of positive indicators and advocates involved in making it happen.

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss the Real Business First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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