A top Hollywood agent reveals why actresses are really paid less

Jennifer lawrence american hustleFrancois Duhamel / Sony, Columbia PicturesJennifer Lawrence in ‘American Hustle.’

Hollywood is currently navigating its way through two major issues at the moment: the lack of diversity representation industry-wide, as highlighted by the Oscars, and the gender wage gap.

As the Oscars take place Sunday, with a second consecutive year of all-white acting nominees, diversity is front and center in conversations. And a recent USC study showed the hard data on how lacking in diversity the movies and TV shows we consume really are.

But the gender wage gap is also making headlines.

Cosmopolitan talked to a female agent from a top talent agency about the reasons actresses get paid less than their male counterparts in general.

The agent, who asked to stay anonymous, broke down the common practice of negotiating deals — agreeing on “points” like percentage of box office and how many first-class tickets the talent gets to travel to set — and said that in her experience, women are more willing to go below their “quote,” or the amount they previously made.

According to the agent, women need to get their quotes up, and the only way to do that is “they need to hold out for things and hold out for more money,” she said.

The agent admits that if male actors don’t get their quote, they often walk away from a project. But actresses are more willing to take a role below their quote because they believe the filmmakers will just cast someone else.

In the case of Jennifer Lawrence, who was paid less than her male costars in “American Hustle,” the agent believes the issue wasn’t her negotiating skills but how actresses are perceived in the industry.

“The deeper issue is how much she and women are valued as a whole,” the agent said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, well, we can always just get another actress.’ [Whereas] with Leonardo DiCaprio you think, There’s no one like him. But Jennifer Lawrence, you just get someone else.”

Hollywood diversity 1 finalUSC AnnenbergStatistic from the recent USC study.

To fix this deeper problem of not valuing women, the agent argues, female roles need to improve. The agent believes there are too few significant parts for women so they essentially have to say yes to cookie-cutter roles in which they play the mother of the star or wife of the star.

“The real issue is women don’t have the luxury to hold out,” the agent said. “Because if they hold out, then what are they going to do? Are they going to not work for the rest of the year? If they don’t work for the rest of the year, they’re not in demand.”

“We need to have female directors as 50 per cent of who directs our eight movies this year,” the agent said. “If you’re a studio and you say that, that will make a difference. Otherwise nothing will change.”

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