Hollywood Is Taking the Lead Role in Spotlighting Equal Pay Issues for Women

May 20, 2016

In a move fitting of her determined “House of Cards” character, actress Robin Wright demanded that she be paid the same salary as her co-star Kevin Spacey – or else she would go public with news of the disparity. Ms. Wright revealed the details of her ultimatum during a Rockefeller foundation event on Tuesday, later reported by the Huffington Post.

To back up her demand, Ms. Wright, who portrays First Lady Claire Underwood opposite Spacey as President Frank Underwood in the Netflix series, did her homework, comparing the relative popularity of the two characters against the difference in compensation. “It was a perfect paradigm,” she said. “There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal.”

The gender pay gap between men and women employed in similar positions is all too common, despite laws that prohibit the practice. In addition to Ms. Wright, Jennifer Lawarence denounced the Hollywood wage gap last year in an open letter to the industry, and Patricia Arquette called for “wage equality once and for all’in her 2015 acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

At the federal level, the Equal Pay Act and Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act mandate that men and women in the same workplace receive the same compensation for equal work. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “the jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal,” with job content and responsibilities -not job titles – determining if the roles are substantially equal. The law applies to all forms of compensation, including:

  • Salary
  • Overtime pay
  • Bonuses
  • Stock options
  • Profit-sharing and bonus plans
  • Benefits
  • Life insurance
  • Vacation and holiday pay
  • Expense and travel reimbursement

Pay disparity isn’t just a Hollywood problem. Discriminatory compensation practices plague women from the mailroom to the boardroom.