Amy Pascal’s Advice to Women on Gender Pay Gap: ‘Know What You’re Worth’

At a conference on Wednesday, the former Sony cochair offered her take on combating one of Hollywood’s most publicized problems.

Amy Pascal, former cochairman of Sony Pictures. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images)

Feb 12, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Hollywood’s gender pay gap has been well documented, but one of the most influential women in the industry believes she has a solution.

At the Women in the World conference in San Francisco on Wednesday night, former Sony Pictures Entertainment cochair Amy Pascal responded to the controversy surrounding leaked Sony e-mails that revealed Sony had paid female actors less than their male costars for work on the same movie.

In an interview with journalist Tina Brown, Pascal acknowledged the gender inequality but suggested that the industry isn’t solely responsible for the problem—the onus lies on women, who must take it upon themselves to demand equal pay.

“Here’s the problem: I run a business,” Pascal told Brown, according to Variety. “People want to work for less money, I pay them less money.” The people Pascal is referring to are women. The hack showed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams earned 2 percent less of the profits from American Hustle than male costars Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jeremy Renner, The Daily Beast reported in December.

But pay inequality in Hollywood goes deeper than American Hustle or the Sony hack. The highest-paid male actor in 2014, Robert Downey Jr., was paid about 25 percent more than the highest-paid female actor, Sandra Bullock, who earned $51 million that year, according to Forbes. While Lawrence was ranked the second-highest-paid female actor of 2014, she earned about a quarter less than the fourth-highest-paid male actor, American Hustle costar Cooper, who raked in $46 million.

At the Women in the World conference, Pascal promised that she’s since paid Lawrence more money than the 24-year-old actor made for her role in American Hustle. “Women shouldn’t be so grateful,” Pascal said. “Know what you’re worth. Walk away.”

Charlize Theron embodied that advice last month when she reportedly negotiated a salary equal to that of male costar Chris Hemsworth for the forthcoming movie The Huntsman, Universal’s prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. The negotiation was heralded for setting a fair precedent in the wake of the Sony leak, which also showed that just one out of 17 Sony employees with a salary of $1 million or more was a woman. Additionally, leaked documents revealed that the male cochair of Columbia Pictures made nearly $1 million more than his female cochair, who had the same job.

It’s worth noting that Pascal, who stepped down as Sony cochair last week, earned the same salary as Sony chairman and CEO Michael Lynton, according to leaked internal documents. One of the last films she approved before leaving her post to launch a production arm at Sony was the anticipated all-female Ghostbusters remake. “It’s about time we have a female action series,” she said at the conference.

Is it also about time we have equal pay for men and women? Pascal said that women need to know their worth, but industry-wide gender pay gaps suggest that business executives—and not just the actors they hire—need to help fix the problem.