Did you know that for Gone With the Wind, Clark Gable worked 71 days and made $120,000. Vivien Leigh, his female co-star, worked 125 days and made… $25,000.
I wish we could laugh this off as a cautionary tale of the ridiculous gaps of pay inequality of yesteryear, but this fact feels familiar. Maybe because just a few months ago, in 2018, it was big news that Mark Wahlberg made $1.5 million for reshoots on All the Money in the World while Michelle Williams received on $80 a day.
Here is a great video on the common myths about the gender pay gap, why a lot of people don’t believe it’s real, and how to convince those people of the facts.
When I was in my early 20s, I got pulled aside by a boss who proceeded to scold me for talking to a female colleague about my salary. “That’s just not something professionals do,” he said.
He was trying to intimidate me. It worked. For a bit. But here’s what didn’t work: Me. For him. For very much longer. I soon took my talents elsewhere.
I wasn’t furious that he didn’t pay me more than I was making. Or that he didn’t give my female colleague grounds for a fair fight. I was furious that he told me what not to say.
I think a lot of the solution for bridging the divide is communication, and that includes talking to each other. Because we are taught to fear these conversations (“It’s just not something professionals do.”), we are left in the dark in terms of knowing what we’re worth and what we should expect for our work. This is especially true for women.
Take it from ask-for-what-your-worth queen Ellen Pompeo. Here’s a quote from April’s Instyle magazine:
“I asked for everything on Grey’s because I saw a piece of paper that told me it had generated $3 billion for Disney. That information changed the game for me: knowing my numbers and having information as to what my actual worth was. Over the years, lots of writers have come and gone. The one thing that’s remained on the show is me, so that’s how I arrived at my confidence.”
“Stop trying to speak perfect. Look perfect. Act perfect. Who gives a fuck. Men don’t try to be perfect.”
In my late 20s, I worked, for the first time, for a female-owned company. It was the first time I was given a big raise when I got a promotion, beyond a measly percentage I had locked myself into when accepting a job, as was typical with other employers. They did what was fair to me. I don’t think that was a coincidence. This company was also the only place I worked that had a female-only meetup series to talk about financial literacy.
In my 30s, a female human resources executive pulled me aside to tell me to raise my freelance rates–she even gave me a number she recommend I charge her company.
Those are the professionals to me. Those are the people I want to work for. And those are the people I want to be like.
The goal of getting power shouldn’t be to get safely to the island then burn the boat.
Get to the island, patch the boat’s holes, throw in some new oars or fix the seating so the next ride is even smoother, then send it back across the divide so someone else can get to the island too.
Better yet, build a damn bridge.
Thank you to all the women and men of the Paperclip Jungles who have treated me like part of the pack, not as prey or as competition.
Thank you to the women who continue to speak out for what they deserve.
And, of course, thank you to Destiny’s Child for bringing me the song that will forever be the anthem for all I’ve ever wanted to be: a free, self-actualized, independent woman.
I would also like to be Bootylicious, but that’s a close second.
Happy Equal Pay Day 2018. Now gon’ get it.