It’s pretty common knowledge that the gender wage gap is still a thing—on average, women make about 78 cents to a man’s dollar. But in Hollywood, it’s more like… actresses make $10 million to an actor’s $20 million (or more). Jennifer Lawrence topped Forbes’ List of Highest Paid Actresses this year, making $52 million—not bad, right? But let’s compare that to what Hollywood’s top earning actor, Robert Downey Jr., makes: $80 million. Both of them boast impressive resumes of both critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies, including some of the most popular franchises of all time—The Avengers for Downey Jr., and The Hunger Games and X-Men for Lawrence. Oh, and there’s also that one thing J. Law has that RDJ doesn’t—an Oscar. So the nearly $30 million gap between the two doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?
The issue persists across the board—the second highest paid actress, Scarlett Johansson, earned $35.5 million, compared to the second top earning actor, Jackie Chan, who banked $50 million in the last year. Melissa McCarthy, who ranks third on Forbes’ list of actresses, made the same salary ($23 million) as the twenty-first highest paid actor, Hugh Jackman. Bingbing Fan, who is originally from China and best known for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, is the fourth highest paid actress, earning $21 million. That’s about half of what Bradley Cooper made ($41.5 million), who also placed fourth on his respective list. In order to be included on the list, Forbes required that actors earn at least $13 million, while actresses earn at least $6 million. 33 actors met this criteria, but only 18 actresses were qualified (even though the standard was significantly lowered for them to begin with).
It might seem trivial to compare such large sums of money—$52 million is $52 million, after all. Jennifer Lawrence made more money last year than most people dream of making in their lifetimes. But that’s not the point. Hollywood is a glaring example of a problem that spans across all fields, professions and social classes, and one that makes it even harder to dismiss the gap solely as a result of women choosing to stay at home or to pick careers that traditionally pay less anyway. If the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie can’t get equal pay, how is there any hope for the rest of us?