Here's What Charlize Theron Did When She Noticed Co-Star Chris Hemsworth was Making More Money

January 13th 2015

Take that, gender pay gap. And take that, North Korea.

No one would suspect North Korea of championing women’s rights, but the Guardians of Peace hackers reputedly backed by North Korea brought attention to Hollywood’s gender pay gap. And actress Charlize Theron is fighting back. 

According to The New York Post, leaked Sony emails exposing income disparity among men and women in Hollywood motivated Theron to ask for, and receive, an increase of $10 million for her work in “The Huntsman,” putting her on par with co-star Chris Hemsworth. 

Email correspondence between Sony executives revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams each received only seven percent of the profits of “American Hustle,” while their male costars received nine percent each. Journalists also noted that of the seventeen Sony employees making over $1 million, only one was a woman. 

Before the Sony hacks, a recent study published in the Journal of Management Inquiry, revealed that average earnings for women in Hollywood began to decline at age 34, while men did not experience a similar decline in annual earnings until age 51. 

Golden Globe Awards hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler remarked on the dearth of opportunities for older women in Hollywood in their opening monologue. In reference to “Boyhood,” Poehler said: “'Boyhood' proves there are still great roles for women over forty, as long as you get hired when you’re under forty.”

It’s not just Hollywood

Hollywood’s gender pay gap may be society’s most visible at the moment, but many other industries have this problem: male cooks make almost $50 a week more than their female counterparts, and male CEOs make $455 more a week than female CEOs. 

On average, women make only $0.78 to every dollar that men make. 

It may seem insubstantial – after all, you can’t even buy a gumball for $0.22. But if your first thought is, “What’s the big deal?” feel free to send me $0.22 of every dollar you make. I’ll gladly accept it. 

Or you can think about it this way: this $0.22 loss per dollar adds up to over $10,000 a year or almost $500,000 over a career spanning 40 years. Now that’s a lot of gumballs. 

Or think about it Sarah Silverman’s way: income disparity essentially amounts to women paying a tax to compensate for the fact that they were born women. 

Why does the gender pay gap exist?

According to the Equal Payback Project, three factors combine to contribute to the wage gap: 1) Lower pay for the same job, 2) Job valuation, and 3) Caregiving (in a study, female job candidates who had children were offered lower starting salaries than those who didn’t have children, essentially punishing women for having children. Fathers, on the other hand, were viewed as more valuable in the study than men who did not have children). 

What can I do about it?

The Equal Payback Project is attempting to compensate women for lost earnings of $29,811,746,430,000 (this assumes that the 69 million women in the workforce lose $435,049 over the course of each of their careers). This crowdfunding project, clearly on the more ambitious end of the spectrum, goal-wise, has so far raised $97,564, the equivalent of paying back one woman for around nine years of income loss. The money raised goes to the National Women’s Law Center, which is working to strengthen equal pay laws, raise minimum wage and make affordable child care more accessible. 

Increased income transparency can also help close the wage gap. It’s hard to fight injustice if you don’t know it’s there. Encouraging employers to be more transparent about compensation may help keep them accountable.  

Should I ask for a $10 million raise? 

Probably not. But Theron’s actions should serve as a reminder that the problem of the gender pay gap is far from solved, and in order to solve the problem, we need to confront it rather than ignore it.   

More people asking questions about the gender pay gap may yield more employees demanding, and more employers providing, equal pay for equal work. 

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