Gender pay inequity is still fairly rampant across all sectors of the job market, however it seems like Hollywood might be the worst offender of all.
However, it might not be that way for long. Many actresses are now speaking out about what they see as an unfair practice of routinely paying male performers more than their female counterparts. Much of this change seems to have resulted from two recent events. Firstly, Patricia Arquette's powerful speech at the Oscars in which she brought attention to the issue, and secondly, leaked Sony e-mails which revealed the difference in pay-checks between actors and actresses on the same film.
Now, Amanda Seyfried has joined the choir of actresses criticizing the pay gap in Hollywood. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Mean Girls and Les Misérables actress revealed she was paid a paltry sum compared to one of her male co-stars. She said:
"A few years ago, on one of my big-budget films, I found I was being paid 10 percent of what my male co-star was getting. And we were pretty even in status."
Although Seyfried doesn't go into detail about the particularly film or actor, it has been speculated she is most likely referring to her Les Misérables co-star Eddie Redmayne - although Justin Timberlake in In Time, and Dominic Cooper in Mamma Mia are other possibilities.
Check out a scene between Redmayne and Seyfried below:
Considering Redmayne was still a relativly unknown actor at the time, I think it's safe to assume his pay-check wasn't exactly in Robert Downey Jr. territory. If Seyfriend only received 10% of that figure, it seems like she wasn't paid much at all. This is especially surprising when you consider she was arguably a bigger name and draw than Redmayne.
Defenders of the Hollywood wage system would claim actors and actresses are often paid different amounts based on individual (usually private) negotiations between agents, the talent, and studio executives. Therefore, performers simply get more if they utilize a savvier approach to wage negotiations. This argument suggests if you don't get paid enough, it's because YOU failed to argue successfully for a higher wage.
Regarding this issue, Seyfried reveals it is likely her laid-back attitude is what cost her the big bucks. Telling the Sunday Times:
"I think people think that just because I'm easy-going and game to do things I'll just take as little as they offer. It's not about how much you get, it's about how fair it is."
Of course, the issue here is the transparency (or lack thereof) of the system. I'm sure many actors and actresses knew they were being paid different amounts, but only after the Sony leaks did they realize the huge differences between male and female performers who, for all intents and purposes, did exactly the same job. It's very difficult to effectively negotiate if large parts of the process are hidden behind opacity and biased standards.
So What's the Solution?
Amy Pascal, the former head of Sony who didn't exactly fair well in the leaked e-mail controversy, has also placed part of the blame at the foot of good ol' fashioned capitalism. She told the Women in the World conference earlier this year that her goal is to make money, and that often means paying people less. She explained:
"I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money. I don’t call them up and say, ‘Can I give you some more [money]?’ . . . The truth is that what women have to do is not work for less money. People shouldn’t be so grateful for jobs. People should know what they’re worth."
Seyfried concluded partly in agreement with this solution, stating it was important for actresses to fight for equal pay, which might occasionally mean walking away from a project. This is something Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence have claimed to have recently done in the wake of finding out their own pay packets were significantly less than their male co-stars'. After the Sony leaks revealed she was paid less than all her male co-stars in American Hustle, Lawrence managed to haggle for a larger $20 million paycheck in upcoming romance-scifi, Passengers.
However, for new or up-and-coming actresses, turning down paying work in large budget movies probably isn't always viable, and Pascal's solution only really works if all actresses adopt the same mentality - which is almost impossible. If an actress refuses a role because it does not pay enough, the studio execs can always head to the free market and outsource it to some other actress who will take the cash. Only once the actresses are established names with box office draw (and most likely an Oscar under their belts) can they hope to 'pull a Lawrence' and make the studios fork out more.