The Hollywood Wage Gap Applies To TV Too, But There Are Some Promising Exceptions
Recently, a light has been shone on the salary disparities between women and men in the entertainment industry, thanks to celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence speaking out about the Hollywood wage gap. It's just one of many areas in which the industry could use some improvement in terms of equality. However, much of that attention has been focused on film, and while it's safe to say that TV networks are ahead of major movie studios when it comes to more inclusive storytelling, I wondered if same can be said of equal compensation. Does television have less of a wage gap than film? In honor of Equal Pay Day on April 12, I decided to investigate.
Part of the problem, of course, is the fact that many jobs just aren't going to women in film or television. “People with more experience are paid more,” said president and CEO of A+E Networks Nancy Dubuc in an interview with Variety. “The problem is that the industry continues to give a disproportionate number of men the opportunity to gain that experience, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that men earn more than women.”
According to the same Variety report, the highest paid female movie stars still make about half of the highest paid male stars. As for TV, currently, according to the latest Forbes report, Kaley Cuoco and Sofia Vergara are the two highest-paid female actors on television. They each made $28.5 million last year, which is significantly more than Vergara's maleModern Family co-stars and only $500,000 less than Cuoco's The Big Bang Theory co-star Jim Parsons, who topped Forbes' list of highest paid male TV actors last year. So that's not a terrible gap, definitely not as egregious as film, and especially promising when you remember that Parsons arguably has a larger role on The Big Bang Theory and has won awards for the series. It's also important that Vergara is a woman of color who tops the list, because unfortunately, the wage gap is even more severe for women of color. While white women make 74 cents on the dollar compared to men, Latina/Hispanic women only make 54 cents, so there are wage gaps that go beyond gender.
Still, I'm not sure that those three top salaried performers are a fair sample for all of television. Forbes also reported that in a 12-month period ending in June 2015, only 15 female TV actors made above $5 million. And while Vergara topped the list at $28.5 million, coming in right under her was Modern Family costar Julie Bowen, who made $12 million — that's quite a jump. The list also includes both Zooey and Emily Deschanel, Robin Wright, Kerry Washington, Mariska Hargitay, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Julianna Margulies. Here's another interesting number: In order to make Forbes' list of highest-paid actors, a male star had to make at least $9.5 million, which is almost twice as much as the $5 million cutoff for female stars. If you look at it that way, television and film are not all that different.
After looking at these salaries, I think that while a few female TV actors are being paid almost equally to their male co-stars, there is still a very long way to go. In the previously mentioned Variety piece, Kathy Griffin said that it took marching into a meeting with Emmy Awards in each hand to get the raise she deserved. The pay gap is clearly a significant problem across the board in Hollywood, so we can only hope that these small victories in television will help set a precent for more widespread change and progress throughout the industry.
Image: Eric McCandless/ABC