The Sony hack that leaked executives’ emails in November revealed significant pay gaps between male and female actors working on the same movies together. But at an event on Thursday evening, outgoing Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal defended the pay disparities.
“I run a business. People want to work for less money, I’ll pay them less money. I don’t call them up and go, can I give you some more?” she said at a Women in the World event. She laid the blame on the women themselves for not refusing to work for less pay. “They have to walk away. People shouldn’t be so grateful for jobs.”
The email hack revealed that for the movie “American Hustle,” male actors Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and director David O. Russell all got 9 percent of back-end profits. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, each got 7 percent. In fact, Lawrence was originally going to get just 5 percent before her pay was raised. Adams had been nominated for four Academy Awards, more than Renner and Cooper combined, and Lawrence had starred in “The Hunger Games,” which grossed nearly $729 million worldwide. In an exchange that brought up the unequal pay levels with Pascal, she admitted, “there is truth there.”
At Thursday’s event, Pascal said of Lawrence, “I’ve made her a lot more money since then.”
Sony executives themselves also experienced a gender pay gap. Co-presidents of production at Columbia Pictures Michael De Luca and Hannah Minghella have the exact same job, but De Luca makes nearly $1 million more. Just one of the 17 Sony employees who made $1 million or more was a woman.
Pascal’s defense assumes that the female actors who were paid less knew about it. But many women who endure wage gaps have no idea. It was only after the leaked emails that Charlize Theron took action to correct a $10 million pay gap between her and “The Huntsman” co-star Chris Hemsworth. Most people are banned or discouraged from discussing pay at their workplaces — about half of American workers say they can’t talk about pay, more women than men — making it difficult for women to know if they’re paid less than the men they work with. Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was named, didn’t find out she was paid less at the Goodyear tire factory where she worked for 19 years.
Pay gaps also tend to be smaller in places where things are more transparent. While American women who work full time, year round make 78 percent of what men do, the difference is 40 percent smaller for unionized workers who tend to know each other’s pay and also much smaller for federal employees where pay scales are public. And while progress hasn’t been made on the gender wage gap overall for a decade, it’s shrinking among those two workforces.
A pay gap for actresses who make millions may not seem like a big deal, but it’s proof that the gender wage gap can crop up anywhere. Women make less in virtually every job category and in every industry and also make less no matter how much education they have. It happens at the bottom of the wage scale, where women make less than men in retail and restaurants, and at the top, where the highest-paid female executives make 18 percent less than men.