So far, 2017 has been a very interesting year for the pay gap. Last month, the BBC revealed what its most high profile staff get paid, and we learnt there was a sizeable difference between the salaries of the high earning male and female broadcasters. I suspect most of us weren’t particularly surprised to learn that many men were getting paid more than women for what is, broadly speaking, similar work. Still, collectively we couldn’t stop talking about it, and as my Pool colleague Harriet Minter put it, some of our interest “stemmed from nosiness”. The big reveal was an act of transparency, in an area that we’re usually extremely secretive about. We’re told that we’ll never earn as much as our male colleagues unless we discuss our wages openly and banish financial taboos. Yet, most of us would rather tweet a picture of an embarrassing skin rash than spell out the details of our salaries.
Today the Mirror revealed that This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby has just had a 50 per cent pay rise, meaning her salary has gone from £400,000 to £600,000, to match the salary of her colleague Philip Schofield. According to the paper, the raise happened when they were offered equal amounts of money to present Dancing On Ice, and this “highlighted the disparity” in their This Morning payslips. Apparently this decision was made before the BBC announcement. This may be true, but I think that the big BBC salary reveal has positively changed the way this news is reported, and how we respond to it.
Greed – like anger, confidence and assertiveness – is a quality that is tolerated and encouraged in men, but feared and reviled in women
We don’t know whether Willoughby had to negotiate hard to “prove” she was worth as much as Schofield, but it seems that ITV want to present her raise as the rectification of a mistake. It’s shameful that she was getting paid 50 per cent less than a man who has been doing exactly the same job. ITV should be embarrassed. Yet in a world where the BBC announcement hadn’t been made, I suspect Willoughby might have been branded pushy or grasping. Money makes us feel weirdly moral. Greed – like anger, confidence and assertiveness – is a quality that is tolerated and encouraged in men, but feared and reviled in women. We’re told that we need to be more like men, and demand higher salaries and greater responsibility in the workplace, yet in practice, when we do our best to assert ourselves professionally, we’re shut down.
Amy Schumer recently commented on her salary negotiations with Netflix, explaining that although she asked for more money once she’d learned what Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle were being paid, she wasn’t asking for the same figure. “Thanks for chiming in on what you feel I deserve to be paid. I believe women deserve equal pay. However I don’t believe I deserve equal pay to Chris and Dave,” she posted on Instagram, adding that the male performers are significantly more experienced than she is but “the reports of me ‘demanding’ or ‘insisting’ aren’t true.” I can’t imagine any man feeling that he needed to deny a story that he demanded or insisted on more money. I can imagine the vitriol that Schumer must have experienced in order to decide it was important to post that statement. “I will continue to work my ass off and be the best performer I can be,” she added. Schumer’s justifications and her determination to prove how conscientious she is contrasts quite sharply with, say, Daniel Craig saying he’d rather “slash [his] wrists” than be Bond again, before quietly agreeing to do it again for $150 million.
An anonymous professor told the New Yorker that when she politely tried to negotiate better benefits after being offered a job, the offer was withdrawn. A range of Hollywood actresses including Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway have spoken out about sexism in the industry, and how their male co-stars make significantly more than they do. Earlier this week, it emerged that last year, Mark Wahlberg, the best paid actor in Hollywood, made $42 million more than the best paid actress Emma Stone. These women have experienced, powerful, well paid agents who negotiate on their behalf. They’ve never had to take a deep breath after lunch, knock on the line manager’s door and say “Are you free for a chat?” Surely this is proof that it’s not fair to put the pressure on women to fight for what we’re worth. The pressure needs to be placed on the people who pay us. That seems to have worked for Willoughby.
Accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper has estimated that the gender pay gap could close by 2041. I think the only way to make this happen is to shut down the myth of the greedy woman, to stop holding us responsible for the numbers on our payslips and to keep shaming the people who manage the numbers. Because if ITV can’t justify paying Willoughby less than Schofield, they can’t justify not closing the gender gap between the managers, researchers, writers, cleaners, and the people who work in the canteen. If they can’t, other organisations won’t be able to get away with it. If anyone’s greedy, it isn’t us – it’s the people who have spent decades profiting by hiring brilliant women and being too cheap to pay us properly.