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The Gender Pay Gap in Hollywood: Female Stars Consistently Paid Less than Males

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2018, women earned 81.6 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gender pay gap has historically been an issue amongst most professions, but Hollywood has gender pay issues of their own, the Bureau said.

In 2019, the World Economic Forum conducted a study that examined the gender pay gap in Hollywood by looking at 1,344 films with 267 different stars, according to their website. 

“When we simply compared what the actors were paid for these films, we found that female stars earned on average $2.2 million dollars less per film – that’s 56% less than men,” the World Economic Forum said. 

They said that factors like the financial success of the actor’s previous work, the popularity of the actor, as well as the genre of the film are among the possible factors that could affect the pay gap. During the study, the World Economic Forum said that they controlled these factors, along with others, to get a more accurate representation of the gap.

“Even when we cross-referenced the data with these various earnings determinants, we found that this explained only half of the pay gap,” The World Economic Forum said. “There was still an unexplained gender gap of more than $1 million dollars per movie, which is a 25% pay gap.” 

According to Forbes, the highest-paid actor of 2019, Dwayne Johnson, made about $89 million dollars; on the other hand, the highest-paid actress, Scarlett Johansson, made about $56 million dollars. 

The top ten highest-paid actors consistently got paid more than their female counterparts. To be exact, the actors earned 1.87 times, almost double, of what the actresses earned in 2019, based on the Forbes data. This further breaks down to the females earning 53.5 cents for every dollar their male counterpart earned.

By combining the top paid actors and actresses from each list into one top ten list overall, it would consist of eight men and two women. Actors outnumber actresses when it comes to being paid more in general. 

Hollywood star, Natalie Portman, spoke out on the issue in a 2017 interview with Marie Claire UK.

“Ashton Kutcher was paid three times as much as me on No Strings Attached…we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy,” Portman said. 

Michelle Williams, a four-time Academy Award nominee, had a similar experience in 2017 with co-star Mark Wahlberg while shooting her film All the Money in the World, according to CNBC. After Kevin Spacey was let go from the film, the cast had to re-shoot scenes, and was able to negotiate a fee for their extra efforts, CNBC said.

“Wahlberg and Williams are represented by the talent agency William Morris Endeavor, Wahlberg’s team negotiated him a fee of $1.5 million dollars for re-shooting his scenes,” CNBC said. “Williams got an $80 per diem, which comes to less than $1,000, or less than 1 percent of what Wahlberg made.”

While it is argued that actors and actresses should be paid using the current “quote” system, which is essentially the base amount that a star is willing to get paid based on their fame and success, according to Vanity Fair, the World Economic Forum argues otherwise.

“Stars of both genders frequently perform in the same movies where they essentially do the same work, at the same time and in the same location,” said the Word Economic Forum. “Not only does this offer an interesting testing ground for gender pay equality, it highlights the injustice of the pay gap.”

The conversation surrounding the gender pay gap has become much more relevant in recent years, but still has a long way to go. Recent movements such as #Time’sUp, #MeToo, and #OscarsSoWhite have all worked to call attention to some of the other injustices that are currently occurring in Hollywood, as well.

Tori is a current freshman at Rutgers University from Middletown, New Jersey. She is pursuing a major in Marketing and loves to watch Netflix, write, travel, and be outside.
Cassidy hails from Delaware County, Pennsylvania and is an undergraduate Journalism and Media Studies major and Psychology minor at Rutgers University with a passion for telling stories. She is the current Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Rutgers.