Wealthy female celebrities are complaining about being paid millions of pounds less than their male colleagues. Why should we care? And is sexism really to blame for this gender pay gap or could it have more to do with the box office?
Female celebrities demanding equal pay. Actresses, sports stars and BBC presenters are leading the charge. But do their salaries owe more to the box office than to sex discrimination?
Hi. I’m Leon Hawthorne. A hundred years after the suffragettes won women the right to vote, their celebrity sisters are demanding equal million dollar salaries to their male co-workers.
In Hollywood, ‘American Hustle’ star Jennifer Lawrence complained her male co-stars were getting paid more than her… something she learned about through hacked emails.
In sport, female tennis players have only recently won equal prize money to the men at the big tournaments.
And closer to home, the publication of BBC presenter salaries has led to female stars challenging the Corporation over its gender pay gap.
Clearly, pampered celebrities are not the top of anyone’s list of deserving causes, especially when they’re complaining about annual salaries that most people won’t earn in a lifetime.
Nonetheless, it’s worth examining the merits of their argument about pay discrimination.
These women work in the entertainment industry. One way or another, their income depends on their ability to attract an audience.
The fact is more people will go to see a movie starring Mark Wahlberg or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson than one starring Emma Stone or Jennifer Aniston. That’s why those men earn more money.
Remember the movie ‘The Hangover’ starring Bradley Cooper about a stag weekend in Vegas. Well, there another movie called ‘Girls Trip’ with a similar theme. The first ‘Hangover’ movie grossed almost $300 million at the box office, close to three times that for ‘Girls Trip’.
Now that’s just one example, of course. But cinema audiences don’t flock to see women in lead roles as much as they do men. The female remake of ‘Ghostbusters’ is another good example.
Hollywood producers are not philanthropists. They make movies to make money and the male lead actors attract bigger audiences than the women. That’s why they pay them more money.
Of course, there are some huge female stars who get paid more money than some male stars for the same reason… their personal pulling power, not their gender.
Most big popular sports on TV feature male athletes. Most sports broadcasting is watched by men. Even the women who watch sports mostly watch male, not female sports.
Take Wimbledon. This year’s Men’s Final attracted 6.4 million TV viewers, whilst the Women’s Final got just 4.7 million viewers.
And yet the women got the same prize money. Both the male and female champions were paid £2.2 million.
But television is all about the ratings. Ratings equals money. An audience of 6.4 million brings in 36% more advertising revenue than an audience of 4.7 million.
I know Wimbledon is shown on the BBC in the UK, which does not rely on advertising. But this is a general rule that applies to television, globally, which is primarily reliant on ad revenue.
In the wider economy, there is virtually no gender pay gap for people under 30, where men earn 5% more than women. However, there is a parenting pay gap, which opens up when some women choose to have babies and leave the full-time job market.
Actress, Jennifer Lawrence blamed herself for earning less money than her male co-stars because she says she tried too hard to be liked and didn’t push hard for a better deal.
That sentiment is true for other women, who lack self confidence in the work place and don’t ask their bosses for a big pay rise. Guess what, your boss generally doesn’t like to give money away. So, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
I say to all women: stop whining about sexism and tell your boss to “show me the money”, but make sure you can show him or her the value you bring to the business to justify it.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.