After leaked emails in the Sony hack showed unequal pay between male and female actors, Charlize Theron insisted she get the same pay as her male co-star Chris Hemsworth for “The Huntsman.”
She succeeded, netting a $10 million increase that puts her on par with Hemsworth.
The hacked emails unearthed significant pay gaps between male and female stars. For their work in the movie “American Hustle,” male actors Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and the director David O. Russell all got 9 percent of back-end profits, while Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, the movie’s two female leads, were each getting 7 percent. (Lawrence was originally going to get 5 percent but her pay had been raised.) At the time, Adams had been nominated for four Academy Awards, more than Renner and Cooper combined, and Lawrence had won one while also starring in the smash hit The Hunger Games. Perhaps worse, in the email exchange Sony Pictures Chairman Amy Pascal responded to the critique that the pay was unequal: “there is truth there.”
A pay gap was even revealed between staff at the studios themselves. Among 6,000 employees at Sony, just one of the 17 who made $1 million or more was a woman. And while Michael De Luca and Hannah Minghella have the same job as co-presidents of production at Columbia Pictures, De Luca makes nearly $1 million more.
The transparency around pay structures could lead to even more women taking action to close any gender pay gaps and Hollywood taking action on its own. One source told Page Six, “One knock-on effect from the Sony hacking scandal is that there will be more sensitivity about equal pay for actresses and hiring practices at movie studios.”
But it also reveals some truths that apply to all working women. There is a gender wage gap in nearly every kind of job, from high paying to low paying, and every industry. That gap doesn’t disappear even when taking into account career experience, which includes any breaks taken to raise children.
But the gap does close when pay structures are transparent. Among unionized workers, the overall 22 percent gender wage gap shrinks to just 9.4 percent and is on the decline. And the gap for federal workers is 13 percent, also on the decline. Both groups usually work in environments where pay structures are made public and they are able to openly discuss their wages with coworkers — just 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men in the public sector say they are banned or discouraged from talking about compensation, compared to about 60 percent of those in the private sector.
That’s why lawmakers have taken steps to end salary secrecy as a way to close the gender wage gap. Last year, President Obama announced an executive order that would end the practice for federal contractors, impacting 22 percent of the workforce. Democrats in Congress have also repeatedly introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ban salary secrecy for the entire workforce, but Republicans have unanimously blocked it.