This year’s Golden Globes has rekindled the often-dormant conversation on issues of gender equality and equal pay, shining a light and exposing gaps that we, collectively, need to do a better job of closing — from sexual harassment to wage discrepancies to unequal opportunities that adversely impact women.
Natalie Portman picked up on the tone of the evening while presenting the award for best director … “And here are the all-male nominees.”
Some found it to be disrespectful to those who were nominated; regardless of how you perceived the remark, it drew attention to the fact that Barbra Streisand remains the only female winner in this category with her win back in the ’80s.
Oprah Winfrey, who is rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential bid, addressed the ubiquity of gender-based injustices transcending cultural, geographical, racial, religious, political and workplace borders, and offered a message of hope to the next generation of leaders.
“I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon,” she said during her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, the highest honor of the night.
Let’s Talk About the Wage Gap
“Will & Grace” star Debra Messing boldly and without qualms confronted E! about its recent scandal surrounding unequal pay for its male versus female hosts.
“I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts. …We want people to start having this conversation that women are just as valuable as men,” she said during a red carpet interview with E! .
While presenting one of the best actress awards, Jessica Chastain, an Oscar-nominated actress who has become an advocate for gender equality, joked, “The recipient of this award will receive the 23 percent of her salary that's missing due to the wage gap.”
When it comes to both salary and career advancement, today’s women expect less. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that on average women expect their highest career salary to be $60,000 less than that of their male counterparts. Stop and read that again. On average, the highest salary men said they expect to reach during their careers is around $137,000. Women anticipate reaching around $79,000 on average.
Furthermore, only 20 percent of women expect to reach a six-figure salary, compared to 44 percent of men. Only 4 percent of women expect to reach the C-suite, while 22 percent of women expect to remain or reach entry-level employment.
The same research shows that a third of women (34 percent) do not think they earn the same pay as the opposite sex in their organization who have similar experience and qualifications, while men are not as convinced about the wage gap, with a whopping 82 percent saying they earn the same pay.
So what does all this mean?
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, or IWPR, suggests that, if this current trend keeps up, women will not achieve “pay parity” in the U.S. until the year 2059 — another 42 years. Minority women will have to wait even longer. Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248 and African American women will have to wait until 2124 for equal pay.
A report for the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take an additional 75 years — a total of 116 years — for the whole world to achieve gender pay equality.
The Dawn of a New Day?
While there are bills proposed in Congress that may help to close these gaps, change ought to begin with individual companies.
Tempting as it may be to point a finger at E!, take a look at your payrolls and understand what gender-based wage discrepancies exist that need to be addressed. Talk to your counterparts at other companies to learn how they are dealing with similar issues while trying to move the needle. Stop discouraging employees from discussing compensation — transparency can allow for more accountability where needed.
Even as Hollywood draws on its collective power to call for reformation, these issues are universal and transcend industries.
As Oprah Winfrey put it, “I'm proud that our industry, faced with uncomfortable truths, has vowed to change the way we do business.” Don’t wait around until a seismic scandal immobilizes your industry or company — vow to take the necessary steps today to put you in place for a better, brighter more equitable future.