The “House of Cards” star wants you to know something about her paychecks.
Is Robin Wright slowly evolving into her bold, dauntless character from “House of Cards”?
Or has she always been at this level of badass?
I ask because Wright, in perfect Claire Underwood fashion, demanded to be treated fairly by the show’s bigwigs … or else.
At a media event at the Rockefeller Foundation on May 17, 2016, Wright got candid about her paychecks working alongside co-star Kevin Spacey on their Netflix series.
“I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin,’” Wright told the audience of activists and media, The Huffington Post reported. And she’d get paid the same or “go public” with the pay discrepancy, she explained.
Wright noted that she’d decided to seize the moment after seeing data suggesting her character was actually more popular than Spacey’s among viewers. Armed with that knowledge, Wright went to executives with her bold proposition. They went for it.
“It was the perfect paradigm,” Wright said. “There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in ‘House of Cards.'”
Pay inequality has been a hot-button issue in Hollywood lately.
On top of widespread discriminatory hiring practices that leave women out — an issue that prompted the ACLU to ask federal agencies to investigate — Hollywood has a nasty habit of paying its leading men far more than its leading ladies.
Last October, Jennifer Lawrence penned an essay expressing regret over failing to insist she be paid equally to her male co-stars in 2013’s “American Hustle.” Lawrence didn’t want to come across as “difficult” or “spoiled,” she wrote (which, unfortunately, is a valid concern among women, because #sexism). But still, the inequity didn’t sit well with her.
But isn’t it a little absurd for women making millions of dollars to be complaining about their paychecks?
Not at all. As Susan Sarandon noted this week at the Cannes Film Festival, “it’s about respect — it’s not about the money.” And it’s respect that needs to be felt at the very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, too.
Equal pay “has to start with regular pay,” Sharon Stone told People last November. “Not just for movie stars, but regular pay for the regular woman in the regular job.”
Pay inequity isn’t exclusive to Hollywood. Women are undervalued in their work throughout most industries.
Pay discrimination based on gender is far too common in the U.S., with full-time women workers making just 79 cents for every $1 their male counterparts make, according to recent data from the Census Bureau. The pay gap gets even more alarming when you consider race and ethnicity, with Hispanic women earning just over half of what a man earns in the U.S.
Sure, blatant discrimination isn’t solely to blame for the gap in its entirety — other important social factors, like access to education, play a role. Still, a sizable discrepancy remains, “even after comparing men and women with the same job title, at the same company, and with similar education and experience,” Glassdoor’s Andrew Chamberlain told Fast Company in April.
Women shouldn’t have to be bold or deliver ultimatums to their bosses to get paid equally. They should be treated fairly as human beings just for doing their jobs. That’s it.
But until we’ve reached that benchmark, we have women like Claire Under — er, Robin Wright to inspire us all to demand better.
Thumbnail photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.