Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have come together to set right a decades-old problem plaguing the industry: a significant pay gap between male and female production workers.
Over 3,000 people, including Ava DuVernay, Jane Fonda, Chrissy Metz, and Sterling K. Brown, have signed an open letter calling for the end of this “egregious” pay gap. The petition is supported by the ACLU, the American Association of University Women, and Women in Hollywood. It was prompted by a study commissioned by Local 871, an organization supporting on-set and behind the scenes Hollywood workers, that found those in production fields commonly populated by women, such as script supervisors, production coordinators, and art department coordinators, receive less pay than those in similar but male-heavy fields like assistant directors and location managers.
In 2016, script supervisors earned rates of $2,573 per week, compared with weekly rates of $4,465 and $3,101 for first assistant directors and second assistant directors, respectively. Citing the California Fair Pay Act, which bans employers from paying women less than men for comparable work, the letter called for the end of female-skewed low wages.
“It is time for real change,” the letter said. “It is no longer acceptable for employees in traditionally female-dominated classifications — like art department coordinators and assistant production coordinators — to be stuck with low wages that oftentimes make it difficult to make ends meet, especially in expensive cities like Los Angeles.”
Although the study was commissioned before the #MeToo movement took off, the letter cited how #MeToo has set off movements to secure higher pay for female actors, and asked why those who work behind the scenes cannot receive the same benefit.
The Local 871 study also found that sexual harassment and gender discrimination are more likely to be experienced in female-dominated professions. 52% of the organization’s female workers said they experienced or witnessed workplace sexual harassment over the past three years. This, the letter said, helps highlight the “deep connection” between the gender pay gap and forms of workplace injustice.
Sexual harassment contributing to the gender pay gap is not limited solely to Hollywood. As Refinery29 has previously reported, female supervisors are 138% more likely to experience harassing behaviors in the workplace. Women who are sexually harassed at work are also 6.5 times more likely to leave positions compared to women who aren’t harassed, which can limit opportunities for raises and career advancement.
So, clearly, the wage gap is an issue both inside the film industry and outside of it, and it will likely take years to rectify. But for many people, this letter is a good start.