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so bradley cooper is helping to address the hollywood gender pay gap

Image via Wiki Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Image via Wiki Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Following the Sony hack and an essay written by Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper recently announced that he would be sharing his salary information with his female co-stars to help ensure pay equality. The Sony hack revealed massive pay disparities between male and female leads in Hollywood. These disparities led many actors and actresses to speak out and question the gender roles, stereotypes, and other inequalities surrounding the entertainment industry.

Instead of running for cover after realising how much more money he made than his female co-stars in the 2014 movie American Hustle, Cooper spoke out and is trying to do his part to create equality. But how will Cooper’s decision really affect the gender pay gap?

In general, men are more direct about their compensation than women. They believe they know what their skills are worth and they seek to obtain that number much more often than women. As women, we are much more likely to take into consideration the way that we may appear to others and the perceived appropriateness of asking for higher wages. Women don’t want to look pushy, or rude, by trying to negotiate their salaries, and unfortunately this is often the perception by others when a woman asks for the same raise, in the same manner, that a man does. Women are more concerned with managing their reputation than they are about getting a higher number on their paychecks. Cooper has provided a channel of communication. Although most salary negotiations are handled through agents, this will allow the co-stars to have a bigger role in determining their pay.

Women tend to be unsure of the value of their skills. They don’t see things in a monetary sense, whereas men do. Men are much more likely to request a higher salary than women. Not only that but when monetising their skillset, men believe their talents are worth much more than what a woman would think of her same skillset. By Cooper sharing his salary with his female costars he offers a higher standard for women to start their negotiations at. His potentially overestimated salary becomes the standard for everyone to work from. His female co-stars will have the opportunity to say, ‘Well Cooper is getting this much, and our workload is almost identical so I think I should be getting the same.’ Instead of lowballing themselves, it levels the playing field for them.

Hollywood in general has recently come under fire for their gender inequalities all across the board. A recent study by USC’s Annenberg School of Communication found that ‘only 30.2% of the 30,835 speaking characters evaluated were female across the 700 top?grossing films from 2007 to 2014. This calculates to a gender ratio of 2.3 to 1. Only 11% of 700 films had gender?balanced casts or featured girls/women in roughly half (45?54.9%) of the speaking roles.’ Additionally, the rate at which female roles are hypersexualised in comparison to male roles is way out of balance. Between the role availability, sexualisation, wage and age disparities and countless other infractions, Hollywood needs a serious makeover.

Image: The University of Southern California

Image: The University of Southern California

But I applaud Cooper for stepping up to the challenge. Not only has he acknowledged it and brought a voice to the issue, he is now actively doing something to try and make a change. As much as publicity can help push a change, the real power lies with the people who take action. As a white male, in a privileged role, he is actively utilising that privilege to help others.

Sadly this disparity still exists in so many other industries besides film. It will take a lot more people taking action and finding things they can do to bring about a cultural change in general. Although there are standards established for certain job titles the opportunities for advancement are not as readily available for women and they are less likely to be in high level positions. The U.S. Census shows just how much this pay gap exists in all the states and that it is a gap that will take some time and effort from everyone to close.

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