How Catt Sadler Became An Unlikely Leader In The Fight For Equal Pay

Photo: Courtesy of Luna Bar..
In December, E! News anchor Catt Sadler announced that she was leaving the network after finding out that her co-star, Jason Kennedy, was making almost double her salary. When she confronted her superiors about it, they refused to pay her the same amount.
This came as a shock to Sadler, who admits she hadn't really thought about the wage gap until it affected her own life. "I feel a little bit silly, having been somewhat uninformed until my own experience," she told Refinery29 in a phone interview. "But wow, what an awakening and eye-opening experience this whole thing has been."
Now, just in time for Equal Pay Day, Sadler is using that experience to raise awareness for others. In partnership with Luna Bar, the former Daily Pop host talked about the salary negotiation techniques she's learned, the support she's received from Hollywood, and how women who don't have Debra Messing advocating for them on national television can help each other.
Refinery29: What was your gut reaction when you realized you were being underpaid?
Catt Sadler: "It didn't happen overnight, but it was frustrating and it was debilitating. It was humiliating. But knowing what I know now, some four or five months later, I'm incredibly hopeful because my experience, as unfortunate as that was, is so many women's experience. So, now I find myself in the position to use my voice when so many others do not have one, to make noise about the disparity. I feel an obligation now, and a duty to go out there, and wake people up and get them on board, and have them attend rallies, and change those legislation or align with organizations that can empower them to know more, to shrink that gap.
"That's what this [Luna bar] campaign is about: the power of negotiation. That's one thing we as women can do that we actually have control over, and I've learned that only 30 percent of women even negotiate. So, we just keep working hard with our heads down. But that shouldn't be the case. I worked with four amazing women, power negotiators in all different fields — tech sports, the restaurant business, fashion — that are giving people actual tools and tips to go into negotiations. We can walk the walk, not just talk the talk."
Was there any salary negotiation techniques that surprised you, or that you learned about, that other women should know?
"So many of us aren't even doing it, so we have to change that. There were a handful of things. Put the number down first — I think a lot of women are just waiting for the offer, right? What's the number? Arm yourself with statistics and information and research. Putting the number down first. I love the advice one of the negotiators gave us: role play with a friend. I mean, whoever does that? Negotiating is intimidating. It can be very stressful, it can get emotional and maybe that's why a lot of women don't do it at all. But if you role play with a friend, and they put you on the spot, you can kind of go through it, almost as if you're kind of acting through the experience. By the time you actually have the negotiation, your skills will be sharpened and you'll be better prepared."
Hollywood women have put this issue front and center with the Time's Up initiative. How did it feel to have Debra Messing speak up for you at the Golden Globes?
"It was very unexpected but ultimately very humbling. I was so touched by the support. I thought I was alone in my experience, and then it just validated my concerns and my whole journey. But that's why I, in turn, am continuing to carry that torch because I know there are so many women that go to bed at night who can't walk away from her job; who don't have Debra Messing in their corner out on a global scale, saying something."
Have other women reached out to share their own stories with you?
"Yes! I mean, to the point that I was thinking about putting together a book all of the notes and all of the messages, and all of the stories. I'm relaunching my website in May and there will be a Dear Catt column because I love hearing from women. It's not all positive either. These are women who are frustrated in their jobs, and who are paid less. They keep me going every day at a time that's rather tumultuous. I'm used to being on TV five days a week for the last 20 years. It's real sisterhood that's come out of the movement, with my friends in the industry, but also strangers and people all over the world. There's power in that. There's strength in numbers. And that's really very encouraging."
What can men do to help make sure that their female colleagues are getting paid equally?
"Well, they have voices too. So, I hope that men are using their voices. They should be. It's not only selfless, but it's within their own interest. A lot of these guys have wives who contribute to their household and they're raising daughters. They need to change the reality of situation for themselves too. But we're not there yet."
Institutions aren't always transparent about what they pay different employees. How can women find out if there's an imbalance?
"I think it's on us. At the end of the day, it's a female colleague of mine and executive who pointed out what I was making. We have to talk to one another — companies aren't going to do it. Thank god for the internet."
What do you hope women will take away from your experience?
"I preached this even before what happened to me: Know your worth. That should apply to everything in life, right? But it's just not enough to know your worth, you've got to act on it. And sometimes that means empowering yourself with all of these tools, so that other people know your worth. We have a personal responsibility in this whole fight. Know your worth, but then go out and, and be able to declare your worth and back it up. And if you do, I think you'll win! "
Women still earn 80 cents to a white man’s dollar. And yet, one-third of Americans aren’t even aware of the wage gap. Let’s keep the conversation going. Head here to learn more about Equal Pay Day.
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