This Oscar-Nominated Actress Revealed How She Negotiates for Equal Pay

April 18th 2017

Almie Rose

"The power of 'no' means you’re educating people in how to treat you."

That's advice Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain gave to Variety on negotiating equal pay. Though she's starred and had major roles in films like "The Martain," "Interstellar," and "Zero Dark Thirty," the actress still found that she was being paid less than her male costars.

She further broke down to Variety in an interview, which was published on Monday, why and how she negotiates, and her tips are valuable even if you aren't starring in a multi-million dollar Hollywood film.

Chastain points out that women don't need to be grateful just for getting a job — if you get a job it's because you're qualified, and you're allowed to ask for what you're worth.

"I’m not taking jobs anymore where I’m getting paid a quarter of what the male co-star is being paid," Chastain said. "I’m not allowing that in my life."

She elaborated:

"I remember watching Amy Pascal [film producer and former Chairperson of the Motion Pictures Group of Sony Pictures Entertainment] — it was after the Sony hack, and she was giving a talk somewhere. She said part of the reason women don’t get paid equal to men is they don’t ask for more; actresses need to stop being so grateful. That really hit me. At first, I was really pissed off. And then I thought, 'She’s touching on something here.' Women need to step forward and demand they’re fairly compensated for their work."

Here are Chastain's tips on negotiating equal pay:

1. "What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay."

"I ask what they’re offering me in comparison to the guy," she said.

She acknowledges her base pay, in comparison to what most women make, is far above the national average: "I don’t care about how much I get paid; I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do."

She went on to add, "I don’t want to be on a set where I’m doing the same work as someone else and they’re getting five times what I’m getting."

2. She no longer puts herself last.

"In the past, what I used to do — this is terrible — a movie would come to me with an offer. They wouldn’t want me to do my deal until they cast the male actor. They would wait and see what they had left over, even if they’d come to me first. And so I stopped doing that," she explained.

She went on to note these three very important points:

  • "Now, if someone comes to me and has an offer but wants to wait, I’m like, 'Goodbye.'"
  • "If you want me in your film, do a favored-nation clause."
  • "Don’t determine my worth based on what’s left over."

She mentions she recently turned down "something huge" because, "for me, it wasn’t about the money; it was an old-fashioned problem of the wage gap. I turned it down, and they didn’t come back. I remember afterwards I was like, 'What did I do? Maybe it was a mistake.' But it wasn’t, because everyone in the studio system heard what I did."

And that means she built up her reputation as a woman who stands up for herself: "Don’t bring Jessica something where she’s not being fairly compensated compared to the male actor. Even though I lost that film, I’ve created a boundary. I drew a line in the sand."

This happens to other major A-list actresses.

Natalie Portman revealed she was paid far less than her co-star, Ashton Kutcher, for their film "No Strings Attached," despite the fact that she was a lead and an Oscar winner.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury to say no.

As Chastain says, she realizes she's in a position where she can turn down jobs because she's paid so much to begin with, which some Twitter users were quick to point out:

If you're struggling to pay rent, it's understandably hard to side with someone who is making millions of dollars. But Chastain's argument is that women should be paid what they're worth — no matter their current salary or occupation.

[H/T Variety]