Despite the constant (negative) spotlight thrust onto the Hollywood gender wage gap in recent years, the tradition of underpaying actresses persists and, depending on who you ask, shows little sign of changing soon. A recent demoralizing example of the pay gap was Gillian Anderson, who said that for the 2016 X-Files revival, she was initially offered half of what David Duchonvy was. Anderson stood her ground and had her salary upped.
Unfortunately, refusing to back down in negotiations can only go so far, according to an anonymous female agent from "one of the top talent agencies" who spoke with Cosmopolitan about the negotiation process for film and TV.
"Believe me," the agent said in the interview published on February 23, "I totally agree that women need to get their quotes up, and they need to hold out for things and hold out for more money and everything like that." However, according to her, the problem runs deeper than stars engaging in negotiations. To begin with, there's the whole team behind the actresses. "We talk about actresses," she said, "but with negotiations, especially for big-name stars, there are usually a lot of people involved."
Then there's the more inherent sexism—which goes well beyond Hollywood—that has to be tackled. "If it's a high-level star," the agent explained, "then you have more leverage. Well, who's a high-level star? It's a white guy." And there goes any sense of progress. Ready to feel like it's the 1950s again?
"Women all across the board are just not valued," she said, before touching on the lack of opportunities coupled with the unequal pay. "So not only do the women want more money, they want more money and they want more work," she said. Her solution–which people probably shouldn't hold their breath for—is for studios to "mandate" that a certain percentage of jobs go to women. "Otherwise nothing will change," she said.
The agent didn't even broach the subject of race, which is a whole other topic she surely has some brutal things to say about.
In an essay titled "Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?" penned for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter last October, Jennifer Lawrence approached the Hollywood wage issue with a slightly more bombastic attitude:
I'm over trying to find the "adorable" way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that. I don't think I've ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard.
Lawrence, aligning with the anonymous agent's consensus that women are paid less in Hollywood, made it clear in her essay that she, too, wants to see change in Hollywood. However, Lawrence—who acknowledged in the essay that her "problems aren't exactly relatable"—speaks mostly about negotiations in terms of equalizing salaries, and not at all about the availability of roles for women.
In light of this need for more work for female actresses, here are a few suggestions for Hollywood:
1. Cast diverse women in more substantial roles.
2. Pay them on the basis of their work and not their gender.
3. See suggestions 1-2.