THE BLOG

Unequal Pay in Hollywood

23/11/2015 15:38 GMT | Updated 20/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Unequal pay in Hollywood: it's this month's hot potato. Forbes recently revealed that the lowest paid actor on their earnings list would rank among the top 10 of highest paid actresses; shortly afterwards Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence penned an open letter to the industry. Rightly so.

Still, I'm struggling to understand how, in 2015, that this issue is even legal? A-list stars Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie-Pitt and Reese Witherspoon barely reach the top 30 with annual earnings of between $15 and $16.5 million. This puts them significantly behind actors Johnny Depp at $30 million and Adam Sandler at $41 million.

As a businesswoman it baffles me that inequality in pay still even exists. The role of women in Hollywood has developed over the past five decades and it concerns me that these conversations are ongoing.

However, before we get too heated, I think perspective is important. Let's remember first of all that we are talking about vastly privileged people. Highest paid actress Jennifer Lawrence earnings are, according to Forbes, an estimated $52 million whilst Robert Downey Jnr's sit at an estimated $80 million. A problem, yes, but then half the world live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10. Pay disparity is a global issue, not just a Hollywood one.

Somewhat ironically November 4th was equal pay day. Still, in the UK, average wages for women were reported to have fallen by £2,700 within a year to £15,400, while the average salary for men remained unchanged at £24,800.

In the UK, The Equality Act 2010 means that employees are entitled to know how their pay is decided. If an employee can demonstrate that their pay is lower due to gender, they would have grounds for a discrimination case.

South Africa is at the very top end of the global gender wage gap. Women earn nearly a third less than men according to the latest statistics published by the South African Revenue Service. An International Labour Organisations analysis of 83 countries shows that, globally, women in paid work earn on average between 10% and 30% less than men.

In some countries the issue isn't one of how many millions but of how many pennies. Many don't even have a set minimum wage. Child labour and slavery are very much at large.

Ultimately, I believe that all women, in all fields, deserve equal pay to men. To deny them this is, in my opinion, a disregard of modern human rights and a blatant display of sexism.

As Kerry Washington said recently:

'Today there are people trying to take away rights that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for: our right to vote, our right to choose, affordable quality education, equal pay, access to health care. We the people can't let that happen.'

Until issues such as these are a thing of the past, we cannot lay claim to being a beacon of equality and advancement. Hollywood has the power, and finances, to make the playing field an even one if it so chooses; let's hope for humanity's sake that the rest of the world quickly follows suit.