Time and time again, Hollywood has proven that it is an industry marked by an extraordinary gender wage gap. Just look at the disparity between the top-earning actresses and actors on Forbes’s annual highest-paid lists: last year, Mark Wahlberg was at No. 1 on the actors’ list with $68 million, while the highest-earning actress, Michelle Williams made less than $1,000. What causes this gender disparity? When more and more women are encouraged to take on female-oriented roles, diversity benefits us all. Each time people show up to consume content from diverse points of view. As an independent industry, the best way to explain this is to break-down prejudices.
Here are two reasons for such a disparity:
Michelle Williams is being paid less because she isn't as big a box-office draw: A star's worth is measured in various ways. There's box-office appeal, international awareness, their Q score (a likability rating) and critical appeal. (In recent years, a star's social following has also factored in.) Wahlberg opens big movies, but hasn't been on the awards circuit since 2011's The Fighter. Williams is a four-time Oscar nominee but doesn't open movies. There's a economic differential at play — but it's not $1.5 million vs. an $80 per diem. It's true that Wahlberg has commercially proven international appeal. Williams is an independent film darling, but has not headlined blockbusters like Wahlberg, who has successfully taken over the Transformers franchise and was 2017's highest-paid actor, Forbes reports. So, yes, Wahlberg should be paid more. But there's a difference between a proportionate fee based on a star's box-office worth — and no fee at all.
Women in the industry: Women are generally discouraged to discuss salaries because of their shelf-life. Of-course this is a concern that effects the entire country, not just Hollywood. And while in Hollywood the cause effects those fortunate enough to be making six, seven or eight figure salaries, in the rest of the country, it effects women struggling to support themselves and their families. Women are significantly mis-represented were intensely aware that most of the woman on that stage had been vastly underpaid. The men, shrinking in the corner, just giving lip service to 50/50 by 2020 pledge were the ones making real money, which in the entertainment business equals power and respect. The truth is, Budgets and such things pass through a channel of executives that have mostly preference for scripts that will garner numbers and be able to reach a wide group of people. International success has become the key driver for such things to get to the stage level. That’s what leads to major salary discussions that happen with actors and actresses.
Thus, whether its reporting on casting news favorable to female actors, or highlighting important achievements by female directors and producers, Women and Hollywood definitely have a sweet-and-sour relationship.