When the Sony email hack happened last November, actress Jennifer Lawrence learned something disconcerting: that she’s paid drastically less than her male costars. Her reaction? “Fuck that.” In Tuesday’s Lenny Letter, Lawrence writes about discovering that “the lucky people with dicks” were earning more cash than she was for the exact same movie. How much more? Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper — along with director David O. Russell — all took home 9% of back-end profits for American Hustle, while Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence only got 7%, the Daily Beast reported last year. “I didn’t get mad at Sony,” Lawrence says in the letter. “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up too early.” That anger led Lawrence to a bigger question: Do millions of other women give up early on negotiations because they’re scared of being perceived as “difficult” or “spoiled” by their male counterparts? “Are we socially conditioned to behave this way?” she writes. She’s asking the right questions. The truth is that full-time working women in the U.S. earn 77% of what their male counterparts are paid. What's more, women are less likely to be offered health insurance from an employer, have retirement savings, or have access to paid leave. And studies have shown that motherhood is associated with wage penalty and lower earnings later in a woman’s career — a number that, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers adds up to a 9% increase in career earnings for every year she delays childbirth.
All these factors only help widen the gender pay gap, and its effects are felt in every area of the workforce. This includes the entertainment industry, which is now notorious for underpaying women actors, even though the discrepancies in Hollywood pay only came to light when information was leaked or shared publicly by an actor. Former Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal says that the issue is women not asking for enough. (“Here’s the problem: I run a business,” she explained at the Women in the World conference in February. “People want to work for less money; I pay them less money.”) But it obviously goes much deeper than that. "Calling out top executives for making too much money will at most embarrass a few suits. But calling out companies for paying women too little will help millions — and perhaps crack one of the most intractable problems of our time,” Joanne Lipman wrote in The New York Times earlier this year. Her solution, and the solution for other countries battling pay disparity, is transparency. And it really makes all the difference. In the case of Jennifer Lawrence, transparency has helped her take a stand at the negotiating table. "I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard,” Lawrence writes. "If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and [then] not getting my fair share.”