The Queen of England’s Gender Gap

Susanne’s post yesterday on the Gender Gap in pay brought to mine the latest examples of how women get stiffed in the pay department. Both come from the world of entertainment. This may happen partly because the people involved are so much more visible, even if their salaries aren’t. But it also occurs in business offices every day.

The Crown Devalued

The Crown, Netflix, Matt Smith, Claire FoyHow can the Queen of England earn less money that an alien adventurer from a science fiction series? The answer is simple: The Queen is a woman  while the Timelord became more popular and made more money dashing around in his phone booth.

Netflix revealed this month that Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth II in their massive hit “The Crown” made less money in her two seasons than Matt Smith did playing her husband, Prince Phillip.

Suzanne Mackie, one of “The Crown’s” producers, admitted this wage gap in an interview. Their reasoning was simple: Matt Smith was more famous for his role as Doctor Who while Claire Foy had limited visibility. Despite her superb performance as the woman who is “by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith,” she took second place in the salary negotiations.

Matt Smith, who played Prince Phillip, son of a prince and grandson of the King of Greece, raked in more money. Ms. Foy earned about $40,000 per episode but his pay has not been revealed.

The Past Is Not Prologue

Not that any of this should have mattered. Claire Foy held the lead role. She was the star of the series and the woman without whom “The Crown” would not have been such a huge success. Matt Smith played a secondary role—a supporting actor.

Claire Foy, Golden Globe, The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II

Claire Foy with Golden Globe Award

Plus, the wage gap continued after Season One, when the show had become a hit and Ms. Foy had won Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild awards for her performance and been nominated for Bafta and Prime Time Emmy awards.

While Mr. Smith, received several nominations he garnered no awards. At that point, Ms. Foy’s previous (and substantial) filmography should have counted far less than what she was delivering for Netflix in “The Crown.”

Embarrassed to admit they had stiffed Ms. Foy in the title role, Netflix changed its policy and declared that “going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen.” Not that this helps Claire Foy. Season three jumps ahead in time (something Doctor Who would have understood) and the lead roles will be played by other actors. Olivia Colman becomes Queen Elizabeth II and will benefit from the change.

So far, 22,000 people have signed a Care2 petition asking Matt Smith to donate the money he made from the gender gap to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

All the Money in the World

Another salary kerfuffle that left a woman in the cold happened when the aptly named movie “All the Money in the World” had to be reshot. Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey, disgraced by multiple charges of sexual misconduct, in the role of J. Paul Getty. Firing Mr. Spacey meant reshooting scenes with Mr. Plummer and other actors.

All the Money in the World, Michelle Williams, Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, gender gapMark Wahlberg renegotiated his contract at that point because it included casting approval and he refused to do the new work unless he was paid the same rate as Mr. Plummer—$1.5 million. His co-star, Michelle Williams, had a contract clause that said she would commit to a certain a mount of reshoot time if she could make herself available.

Ms. Williams was available and she did reshoot. For ten days’ work in the role of Gail Harris she received only the standard per diem rate of $80 per day for a total of less than $1,000.

So what? He was a savvy negotiator while she, as women tend to do, played nice and did the right thing. He made 1500 times more than she did. What’s wrong with that?

Under the Bus

The talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) represents both Ms. Williams and Mr. Wahlberg. They didn’t do a great job working on behalf of Ms. Williams. Did they throw her under the bus because they would make more money with Mr. Wahlberg? Also, Director Ridley Scott glossed over Mr. Wahlberg’s pay increase during interviews and made it seem like everyone in the cast had worked for the per diem rate because they were such pros. Yeah, right.

After a similar petition gathered signatures, Mr. Wahlberg donated that $1.5 million in  gender gap wages to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Ms. Williams” name. Way to go, Mark. WME has also donated $500,000 to the fund.

Making 30 Cents to the Dollar

In the aftermath of the publicity around this gender gap, other actresses learned how badly they had been suckered by what’s known in Hollywood as “the quote.”  This refers to the practice of determining an actor’s salary in part based on his or her previous salaries. The quote bit Ms.Foy in the paycheck but she’s far from the only one. Others include:

  • Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
  • Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
  • Natalie Portman in “No Strings Attached”
  • Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

These A-List women hold prominent positions and command big salaries. But, somehow, the quote still determines that they be paid a fraction of what their male co-stars receive. As Natalie Portman said in a Marie Claire interview: “Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”

Hollywood gender gap, wage gap

This doesn’t hold true just for Hollywood. “The quote” affects every woman who is offered a lower salary at a new job because she made less at her old position. This corporate discount cascades throughout a career and means that the women never catch up. For that reason, the question, “What did you make at your last job” should be illegal.

Two Big Weapons in the Gender Gap

In this gender-gap dynamic, companies have two big weapons: monopsony and secrecy. When a woman competes for one of just a few available jobs, she will take what she can get and hope to build her worth over time. It usually doesn’t happen. As Taraji P. Henson wrote:

“The math really is pretty simple: There are way more talented black actresses than there are intelligent, meaningful roles for them, and we’re consistently charged with diving for the crumbs of the scraps, lest we starve. This is exactly how a studio can get away with paying the person who’s name is third on the call sheet of a big-budget film less than 2 percent what it’s paying the person whose name is listed first. I knew the stakes: no matter how talented, no matter how many accolades my prior work had received, if I pushed for more money, I’d be replaced and no one would so much as a blink.”

And when a woman doesn’t know that her male co-stars or co-workers are making three times her wage, she doesn’t know to protest or demand something better. Even if she did, a company may decide it’s more cost effective to dump her and hire a more compliant woman who won’t be “a problem.” That’s what happened to actress Patricia Arquette after she complained about the Hollywood gender gap. She either lost or had to walk away from roles.

Forget the Kindness of Their Hearts

No one is going to pay women what we deserve out of the kindness of their hearts. We have to get tougher, worry less about being “a problem” or “difficult” and stop being afraid to demand what we are worth.

Men have to think about this, too. If you believe that you deserve more because you’re a tough guy who had the guts to negotiate more, think about what happens to your wife, your sister, or your daughter when men take the big bucks and leave the women to flounder. Think about how that will affect your wife’s or your mother’s retirement money—because it will.

The gender wage gap doesn’t only affect Hollywood—or women. It has an impact on everyone.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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