How Women In The Film Industry Are Advocating For Equal Pay
This article includes paid advertising content from Visa.
Awards season sure does make it seem like the film industry is all about glitzy trophies, glamorous outfits, and the fight to claim your best-in-class bragging rights, but the lead-up to these massive productions is full of major behind-the-scenes wins that may never make it to your TV screen — like the daily actions of women in the film industry who are giving the fight for equal pay the attention it deserves.
Don't get me wrong; I'm sure it feels pretty darn good to be recognized as a winner in a theater full of your iconic colleagues, but without equal pay for the same award-winning work among men and women, it's impossible not to wonder how much that recognition actually matters.
That’s why this awards season, Bustle and Visa are continuing the conversation about the gender pay gap — not just in Hollywood, but throughout the larger entertainment industry. Last year, Visa commissioned a survey among millennial women to find out how we think, act, and feel about money today, and there was some good news and some not-so-good news. The survey found that while women today are more driven, career focused, and ambitious about money, our one challenge is how comfortable we feel talking about money. In fact, Visa found that compared to men, women aren't asking for as many raises or negotiating their pay because it would be too "uncomfortable" to ask.
Visa is on a mission to close that gap by asking women to share how they're changing money in their own circles, which is why Bustle reached out to nine women from all corners of the film and entertainment industries to learn how they’re advocating for equal pay for not only themselves, but also for their industry’s next generation. Here's what they had to say.
I Make Sure I'm Compensated Equally For My Worth
"It's important to know what you bring to the table in comparison to the individuals that lead in your field. In my case, the majority of cinematographers are men. Knowing the value and unique experience and vision I bring to every project is very important. My career is a business, so I have to treat it as such. Running a company, especially when it’s as personal as your skill set, is a learning curve, and you only grow through experiences." —Autumn, cinematographer, Los Angeles
I Share Personal Stories, And Listen To Others
“I am part of [a Union] that is currently lobbying to make more commercials unionize. Commercials are the one area that still use a lot of non-union contracts, which can result in problems for actors. I am also a part of acting classes, writers groups, and online communities for actors, hosts, and writers. There’s power in numbers. It's harder to agree to [a rate] less than what you're worth if you have people with similar stories supporting you, and everyone has stories.” —Anonymous, actress, Los Angeles
I Discuss Compensation With My Male Colleagues
“Our culture has drilled into us that we shouldn't talk about money, but that aversion only helps the powers that be enact pay inequality across the board. I've asked my male colleagues what they were getting paid. I've said to bosses, 'I want to make sure I am making as much as my male colleague.' I felt comfortable to say that in those particular instances — and I understand that's not always the case — but I hope the more we talk to each other about pay, the more we pull the veil back on inequality.” —Tracy, comedian and writer, New York City
I Encourage Other Women To Negotiate
"Once I realized that women in media, particularly young women of color, were constantly having conversations [about being overworked and underpaid] in hushed tones, I began to understand how crucial it is to be blunt about our compensation. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with male counterparts who were so confident and open about what they made. Of course, it angered me because time and time again it was way more than I'd made, or [more than] their female counterparts made, but it also inspired me to be just as open to benefit myself and others ... If we have open and honest conversations about our compensation and how we got there, we can better prepare and enable others to push back against initial offers, learn to negotiate, and push the boundaries further." —Marissa, TV social media producer, New York City
I Employ Representation That Advocates For Equal Pay
“I am a member of [a Union] ... We rely on our Union to represent us, protect our wages, health, welfare pension, and safety. Our Union is made of costume designers, assistant costume designers, as well as costume illustrators. I encourage [young designers] with representation to empower their agents to advocate for them.” —Arianne, costume designer, Los Angeles
I Don't Shy Away From Tough Conversations
“For most of my career, I’ve experienced a pay disparity between myself and my male colleagues. My day rate has been on average $100 to $200 less than my male colleagues. Two years ago, our market formed a union and that has made all the difference — but it wasn’t easy. It starts with a conversation. You have to be bold enough to have that conversation and advocate for change.” —Mika, freelance camera operator, Indianapolis
I Joined A Union
“I am in a union that has negotiated agreements collectively with employers, in our case often studios, to set forth the minimum terms or conditions under which covered employees work. This includes a minimum scale rate for different positions in the costume department. In addition, I often discuss rates with colleagues in my department — either my own, or those that have been disclosed to me — in order to shed some transparency on these topics that are often considered too taboo to talk about.” —Staci, costume designer, New York City
I Hire And Pay Women, Especially Women Of Color
"I advocate personally for equal pay by hiring women, and especially women of color who suffer from intersectional discrimination, and I pay them the same rates as their counterparts. White women make about 77 percent of what white males make, while black women make about 61 percent of what white men make. I also do my best to educate people about these facts so that all people who fight for gender parity are held responsible for fighting for us all." —Mel, director and producer, Los Angeles
I Actively Recruit Women
"As the founder of a creative agency and video production company, I actively recruit women, minorities, and young people to work for us. We really encourage women to apply. Additionally, we try to educate women and our employees about the changing tax laws, and encourage individuals to talk to tax professionals and accountants regularly to make sure they're making the most of their funds." —Jillian, Founder and CEO of Ezra Productions, Los Angeles
I Shine A Light On Women's Voices
"Because much of the pay gap stems from a lack of opportunity, I chose to produce and direct a film about the challenges women directors face in this industry. Half of the picture features interviews with [prominent women directors] who candidly relate their experiences being undervalued in an industry that perpetually sees women as 'risky,' and women’s stories as smaller and niche. In this case, art is advocacy. While the women speak from their hearts about the frustrations they’ve encountered, they also exude confidence, passion and humor — they are just so good at what they do — and it becomes even more clear what a loss it is for all of us, a loss for our culture, that we’ve been deprived of more of their work." —Amy, director/producer, Los Angeles
This post is sponsored by Visa.