It was former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright who said, ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.’ But recently deposed Sony Pictures boss Amy Pascal is unapologetic about paying actresses less than their male co-stars – and claims the email hack has actually helped them ask for more.
‘I run a business. If people want to work for less money, I’ll pay them less money. I don’t call them up and say can I give you some more?’ Pascal said in an on-stage interview at the Women in the World conference in San Francisco yesterday, the first time she’d publicly discussed the fallout from North Korea’s hacking of Sony in retaliation for spoof Kim Jong-Un assassination film The Interview.
‘The truth is that what women have to do is not work for less money. They have to walk away.’
Pascal has a point: businesses are not charities. But that doesn’t make not paying women as much for the same job as men any less wrong - hence why equal pay legislation is so necessary
Her argument that women need to actually ask for higher pay is a good one, though. There is a mountain of evidence showing women don’t ask for as high payrises as men – if they do at all. And just asking could avoid anything as bothersome and costly as, you know, having to take employers to court.
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, who the emails revealed were paid significantly less than male American Hustle co-stars Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale, have not whispered a word about actually suing Sony for short-changing them. But Pascal does (rather hypocritically) claim she’s made J-Law ‘a lot more money since then,’ while Charlize Theron reportedly used the episode to get the same pay as her male co-star in The Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth.
Pascal’s comments also call to mind Microsoft boss Satya Nadella’s widely-panned suggestion women should wait for karma to bless them with higher wages. The former Sony boss’ ‘business’ rationale proves that that is very, very unlikely. Lawrence, Theron et al now know where it’s at.
And what of Pascal herself? The Hollywood tycoon admitted she’d been fired from Sony Pictures, rather than the graceful exit of official press releases. But she’s scored herself a reported $30-$40m (£19.5m-£26m) to produce films including the Spider Man franchise over the next four years. Interviewer Tina Brown suggested that was ‘quite a haul’.
‘Thank you,’ Pascal responded.
You don’t see honesty that refreshingly blunt every day - at least not the in the UK anyway, where it’s oh so culturally taboo to talk about the size our of wage packets. But a lot of women could learn from Pascal when talking about pay – and asking for more of it.