Negotiation and the gender pay gap

By Niki Winterson, Lead Agent, Winterson’s

The gender pay gap at The BBC is 10 percent – two thirds of stars earning more than £150,000 are male, the top seven earners are male.

10 percent is pretty damn good when compared with 18 percent nationwide. As it should be. If we’re not doing better in entertainment than the rest of the country then the rest of the country isn’t going to move forward. We’re in the public eye.

Here’s the reality about the gender pay gap, folks. There’s only so much money in the pot to ask for. A budget is just a budget. There’s only so much to be divvied up. There isn’t ten percent to come out of nowhere and just be stuck onto female wages. It’s  going to have to come from men’s salaries. This is true not only at The BBC, but across the nation.

Equal salaries are hard to achieve and nowhere more than in the entertainment industry. When people are on uncertain contracts – when they are hired per project and in competition with each other for work – when every year’s contract is subject to renegotiation and every negotiation could see you written out, recast, or the part just offered elsewhere it is hard to hold your ground. Those who have been raised to expect less for themselves (women) and those for whom there is less on-screen time and therefore more competition (women) holding on is always going to be harder.

There comes a point in every negotiation when the producer just says ‘take it or leave it’. They may well come back with a better offer if you walk away, but they may not. At that point you have to have the actor’s permission to push on. Men are far more likely to empower an agent to do that because they have a justifiably higher belief in their likelihood of garnering other work and a justifiably higher opinion of their own value within the current social climate (18 percent higher).

Feminism isn’t easy. It’s a call for a radical social change. Within it are some difficult truths which many like to avoid. Implicit in the demand for female pay rise is a demand for male pay cut. We’re talking about no less than changing the world.