'It's Not Right': 27 Actresses Who've Spoken Out About Being Paid Less than Male Stars
On Equal Pay Day 2019, the actress went to Capitol Hill to discuss the gender pay gap — an issue she is all too familiar with after realizing she was paid $1,000 to Mark Wahlberg's $1.5 million for reshoots of their film All the Money in the World.
"No one cared," she said of the 2017 news story. "This came as no surprise to me, it simply reinforced my life-learned belief that equality is not an inalienable right and that women would always be working just as hard for less money while shouldering more responsibility at home.”
After the story gained traction thanks to Jessica Chastain blowing it up on Twitter — and a $2 million donation was made to the Time's Up Defense Fund — “I could tell my workplace was shifting," she said. "Rather than being grasped too tightly or hugged for too long as a morning greeting, my hand was shaken and I was looked squarely in the eye and I was welcomed to my Monday morning."
Williams added, “On the job I just completed two weeks ago, I have to tell you, I was paid equally with my male costar.”
Margulies said she nearly reprised her Emmy-winning role of Alicia Florrick on the third season of The Good Fight — CBS All Access’ spinoff to The Good Wife — but ultimately turned it down when CBS allegedly wouldn’t meet her rate.
“To be perfectly honest, I was shocked,” Margulies told Deadline. “I was more surprised than hurt. I thought, ‘What are you worth?’ “
“I’m not a guest star; I started the whole thing with The Good Wife,” Margulies said. “I wanted to be paid my worth and stand up for equal pay. if Jon Hamm came back for a Mad Men spinoff or Kiefer Sutherland wanted to do a 24 spinoff, they would be paid.”
“If you are worthless, if you are not valued for your work, than what’s the point?” she added.
Taraji P. Henson
In an interview with Variety, the actress recalled how she asked for $500,000 for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — a part that earned her an Oscar nomination — but she was paid just $150,000.
“I’m number three on the call sheet. Does that make sense to you?” she said.
While she added that she doesn't expect to be paid as much as Benjamin Button star Brad Pitt — "I don’t open movies like he does," she said — she did talk about a time she turned down work over stalled salary negotiations.
"If you want a discount performance, go get it," she shared. "They’re out there. But you’re not getting it from me. I deliver, and I have the track record to prove it."
"At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Meredith Grey. They wouldn’t give it to me," the actress told The Hollywood Reporter, recalling being paid less than her former onscreen love interested, played by Patrick Dempsey. "And I could have walked away, so why didn’t I? It’s my show; I’m the number one. I’m sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.’ ”
Following Dempsey's departure, Pompeo signed a new deal in late 2017 that will make her the highest-earning actress on a TV drama: $575,000 per episode (she films 24 a year), along with a seven-figure signing bonus and two full backend equity points on the series, estimated to bring in another $6 million to $7 million. She also will get a producing fee, plus backend, on a Grey’s spinoff.
When the longtime E! News and Daily Pop host's contract was coming to an end in 2017, she was notified by E! executives that they wanted to extend her deal. But about the same time that was happening, Sadler exclusively told PEOPLE she was "informed and made aware that my male equivalent at the network who I started with the same year and have come up with doing essentially similar jobs, if not the same job, wasn’t just making a little bit more than me but was making double my salary and has been for several years."
"That was really hard to swallow, but you know information is supposed to be power and when my team began negotiations knowing what we knew, that was the barometer in which I expected to be paid, based on the law and based on what I know to be fair. And what I believe in my heart of hearts is reasonable," she explained about asking to be compensated the same as her co-host and friend, Jason Kennedy, who serves as co-host of E! News as well as a correspondent for red carpet coverage.
Although Sadler was hopeful she'd be fairly compensated, "they didn't come close — nowhere close, not even remotely close." This led the TV personality to make the decision to leave the network. "If I stay and do the easy thing, I don’t serve myself and I don’t serve every other female in the world," said Sadler, who also took to her personal website TheCattwalk.com to share about her exit.
Spencer has spoken out not once but twice about being paid less than costars, most recently in 2019 on a Sundance Film Festival panel.
“I have to say, when I was negotiating my deal for Madam C.J., [executive producer] LeBron James had to intervene,” Spencer, who holds the title role in the series, said, according to IndieWire. “So we need all our male counterparts to be in the fight with us.”
The year prior, Spencer revealed that costar Jessica Chastain helped get her paid five times more than originally quoted on a project they were starring in together by linking their salaries. The two had a heart-to-heart about not only the gender pay gap, but the differences in pay between white women and women of color.
“I think my goal is to make sure that all women of color get equal pay, and all women get equal pay,” Spencer said. “The only way to do it is to have these conversations, to talk numbers with your costars. Jessica and I stood together, and that was interesting that she would take that position — well, I mean, she is Jessica Chastain — but we also need advocates and allies in negotiating.”
After learning how much Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock were getting paid for their Netflix standup specials, the Snatched star asked for a pay bump for her "The Leather Special," which was released on the streaming service. However, Schumer took to Instagram to clarify her salary renegotiation, sharing that she doesn't feel she's deserving of her colleagues' exact salaries just yet.
"I believe women deserve equal pay. However I don’t believe I deserve equal pay to Chris and Dave,” she wrote on Instagram, adding: “I didn’t ask for the same as my friends. I did ask for more than the initial offer. I will continue to work my ass off and be the best performer I can be. The reports of me ‘demanding’ or ‘insisting’ on equal pay to them aren’t true.”
After Variety had reported that Foy was paid less than her The Crown costar Matt Smith, the actress spoke to Entertainment Weekly to address her thoughts on the situation.
“I’m surprised because I’m at the center of it, and anything that I’m at the center of like that is very very odd, and feels very very out of ordinary,” Foy told EW. “But I’m not [surprised about the interest in the story] in the sense that it was a female-led drama. I’m not surprised that people saw [the story] and went, ‘Oh, that’s a bit odd.’”
Winfrey is a longtime champion of equal pay — even when doing so could have cost the star her job as TV’s most iconic daytime talk show host. In TIME Firsts, she opened up about fighting to close the wage gap for female staffers working on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“I built this show around myself and the producers. We were young women in our 30s trying to figure it out and find our own way,” Winfrey said. “I was making a lot of money, and my producers were still getting the same salary. I went to my boss at the time and I said, ‘Everybody needs a raise.’ And he said, ‘Why?’ ”
She continued: “He actually said to me, ‘They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls. What do they need more money for?’ I go, ‘Well, either they’re gonna get raises, or I’m gonna sit down. I will not work unless they get paid.’ And so they did.”
In a candid interview with Out Magazine, the Oscar winner spoke out about the gender pay gap in the film industry, and how some of her male costars have willingly helped bridge the gap. "In my career so far, I've needed my male costars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them," she said. "And that's something they do for me because they feel it’s what's right and fair."
She continued: "If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life."
Despite having a buzzy career that boasts a hit TV show (Quantico) and a big movie reboot (Baywatch), Chopra is not exempt from getting paid "a lot less than the boys" in Hollywood.
"It's a scary place," the actress told Glamour. "You will be rejected. I was rejected many times. I cried. I was told that female actors are replaceable in films because they just stand behind a guy anyway."
"I'm still used to being paid — like most actresses around the world — a lot less than the boys," she continued. "We're told we're too provocative or that being sexy is our strength, which it can be, and it is, but that's not the only thing we have."
After it was revealed in the 2014 Sony hack that Lawrence had earned less money than her male American Hustle costars, she reflected on why she hadn't fought for more money in a pointed essay for Lenny Letter.
"I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight," she wrote. "I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.' At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being difficult or spoiled."
"There's no excuse," Chastain told Variety in response to Lawrence's essay. "There's no reason why [an actress such as Lawrence] should be doing a film with other actors and get paid less than her male costars. It's completely unfair. It's not right. It's been happening for years and years and years. I think it's brave to talk about it. I think everyone should talk about it."
Portman revealed that she'd been paid one-third of what her costar Ashton Kutcher made for 2011's No Strings Attached. “Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar,” Portman explained. “In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
The actress sees the issue of wage inequality as "bigger than money" — it's a whole system of discrimination. "I know we're focused on the money part right now. That's just a by-product," Bullock told Variety. "I keep saying, 'Why is it that no one is standing up and saying you can't say that about a woman?' We're mocked and judged in the media and articles. Really, how men are described in articles versus women, there's a big difference. I always make a joke: 'Watch, we're going to walk down the red carpet, I'm going to be asked about my dress and my hair while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues.' "
In the actress's Allure cover story, she lamented the wage gap in Hollywood, but also for women in all industries. "That's what is so great about what Emma Watson is doing," Adams said of the star's HeforShe initiative. "She's not talking about actresses; she's talking about women all over the world."
Adams also opened up about her own experience with receiving less than her male colleagues. "I wasn't comfortable [talking about it] because I don't feel bad for myself as an actress," she said. "I feel really fortunate. I started doing research, and it was striking how women don't feel comfortable negotiating for raises."
The legendary actress spoke candidly about her thoughts on the gender pay gap in Hollywood in a 2016 interview with Time, saying, "Men are ashamed that they’re getting that money. It used to be, everybody didn’t say anything about it, so it was kind of fine. Now they’re a little more nervous that somebody will find out what they make vis-a-vis their co-star."
"That’s the best vigilance: the vigilance of privilege," she continued. "People will always be battling and whining about it. When the other side says, ‘You know, I think that sucks’—that’s great.”
Co-captain of the United States women's national team — and author of the memoir, When Nobody Was Watching — the two-time Olympic gold medal winner wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on joining four teammates in filing a safe-discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer in March.
"If I were a male soccer player who won a World Cup for the United States, my bonus would be $390,000. Because I am a female soccer player, the bonus I got for our World Cup victory last summer was $75,000," she wrote.
"I understand that the men's World Cup generates vastly more money globally than the women's event, but the simple truth is that U.S. Soccer projects that our team will generate a profit of $5.2 million in 2017 while the men are forecast to lose almost $1 million. Yet we get shortchanged coming and going."
Hendricks is best known for playing a 1960s working woman in an office oozing with sexism. This fact made the Mad Men actress' gender equality PSA for Funny or Die all the more fitting. In the clip, Hendricks goes to work in a "modern office," but still retains the professional sensibilities her character, Joan, picked up in the '60s, including smoking and drinking at work, using a typewriter and being completely lost when it comes to today's technology.
When a "colleague" expresses confusion at her outdated actions, she says that if she's going to work in a world that pays women like it's the 1960s, she's going to act like it, too. Hendricks owns the scene, as usual.
The Boyhood actress deviated from the typical path of a gratitude-filled Oscar acceptance by using the tail end of her speech to advocate for wage equality.
"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights," she said. "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."
We can't imagine Olivia Pope would ever accept being paid a lesser salary than a male colleague — and it appears her offscreen counterpart feels the same way. Washington tweeted in favor of Equal Pay Day as part of Levo League's #Ask4More campaign.
The HeForShe founder is a stringent supporter of gender equality across all facets of life. In 2014, she gave a rousing speech at the United Nations to launch her gender equality initiative, speaking out about the demonization of the word "feminist," the responsibility of both sexes to solve gender inequality and, of course, the importance of equal pay.
"I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts," she said. "I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men."
Theron has proven herself to be an advocate for equal pay — not just with her words, but through her actions, too. Following the Sony hack, where details about her salary for the film Snow White and the Huntsman were released, the New York Post's Page Six uncovered that Theron had negotiated her pay to be closer to that of her male costar, Chris Hemsworth. It was a win not only for the actress, but for gender equality overall. Her negotiation tactics worked, and Theron received increased pay as a result.
If you've listened to Beyoncé's tune "***Flawless," in which she samples sound bites from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech "We Should All Be Feminists," you know that the icon is all about gender equality. Perhaps less known than her musical activism, however, is Beyoncé's essay, "Gender Equality Is a Myth," in which she discussed the dismal state of gender equality today in The Shriver Report.
"Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes," she wrote. "But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more — commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.”
During a sit-down with Levo League, Silverman shared a personal experience with wage equality, in which she was paid $10 for a 15-minute stand-up comedy performance. After leaving the theater, she discovered men who did the exact same job made significantly more money than she did: $60.
"I'm all for women having to work harder to prove themselves at this juncture, if that's the way it is in the world," she said. "But if you work a job, and a man is working the same job, you should be getting paid the same."
Chloë Grace Moretz
In recognition of Equal Pay Day, the actress tweeted a photo of her hand holding 78 cents – the amount a woman makes today for every man's dollar.
Poehler has long considered herself a feminist, even apologizing after Taylor Swift called her and Tina Fey out for what she called an anti-female joke. Poehler spoke out again on Equal Pay Day, this time, to encourage women to ask for the salaries they deserve. “It is not overreacting to ask for what you want and need," she said.