If you’ve been keeping up-to-date in the world of feminism, you’ve probably heard about Jennifer Lawrence’s pay gap essay. J. Law wrote the essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter e-newsletter about how she feels about the fact that she doesn’t make as much money as her male co-stars.
The essay detailed Lawrence’s disappointment in herself as a negotiator when the Sony hacks revealed that she was making far less money than Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Christian Bale on American Hustle. She explains that she didn’t want to negotiate her pay too aggressively because she was afraid she would come off as spoiled.
It’s pretty safe to say that men don’t generally worry about sounding spoiled when negotiating for more money. Lawrence wrote, “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable!”
While Lawrence acknowledges that her problems aren’t exactly relatable considering she was the world’s highest-paid actress in 2015, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t an issue. There is no reason that an Oscar-winning actress should be making any less money than her co-stars simply because she is female. So what exactly can we learn from J. Law’s essay?
For starters, there are many people who still think that the wage gap is a myth. Bethany Ober Mannon, Ph.D told Valley that she absolutely believes that the wage gap is real. “I’ve done a lot of research on it, and I have read articles pointing out that the gap reflects women’s choices (to stay home after a child, to choose lower-paying work), or arguing that it’s a myth. However, when I continued to read about the issue I found research showing that even when you account for all those factors, wage gaps exist in most fields and in most positions. Yes, I think it’s absolutely real, and it’s important to also say that those gaps are even larger for women of color.”
Senior theatre major Maya Lederer told Valley that the discrimination against women isn’t just in the big leagues and it doesn’t just have to do with money.
Lederer says, “The discrimination mainly lives in the roles available for women in the theatre. There is a large amount of competition for female roles.”
So how can we stop this prejudice? Since a lot of discrimination in the theater and film industry has to do with women getting paid less to play more shallow, sexualized roles, Lederer thinks it starts with education. “[Proper education] will result in the next generation showing more respect and especially a decrease in the sexualization of women. Ignorance is a learned behavior, therefore education is the only cure for both sexism and racism.”
Dr. Mannon thinks the best way to close the wage gap is through transparency. “Public universities make salaries for a lot of positions available for anyone to see, and that might be a good idea for other workplaces. Make the reasons for raises and promotions more objective and concrete, so that personal feelings, biases and prejudices play less of a role,” Mannon says.
Since the world and your workplace might not always acknowledge your worth, it’s important for women to take things into their own hands. “Men and women are equally capable of working hard, making valuable contributions to the world, and achieving a lot of success, in whatever terms they define it. The problem is the whole set assumptions about gender and sex that influence how men and women are treated, and create obstacles for women,” Dr. Mannon says. “’The world’ doesn’t treat them as equal, and I think sometimes you can fight that and get where you want, but sometimes you can’t.”