Editor’s Note: Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is executive director and co-founder of MomsRising.org, a nonprofit national organization that supports policies to improve family economic security. She is the author of the forthcoming book “Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Take Action and Change Our World.” The views expressed here are solely hers.
Frances McDormand shook Hollywood – and the world – Sunday night with two words: Inclusion. Rider.
Inclusion what? Clauses that can be added to an actor’s employment contract to ensure gender and racial diversity in the cast and crew, inclusion riders vaulted out of obscurity overnight. Eyes and opportunities are opening. A-listers such as McDormand can leverage their clout to open the door for others to be treated fairly – and also to help create the best entertainment products possible for all of America.
After all, studies have shown repeatedly that diverse teams not just in Hollywood but across all industries are smarter and lead to better outcomes. And of course studies also show that the more women in leadership, the more fairly women are treated and the more profitable the venture.
Despite long and detailed lists of the obvious benefits of diversity, those two words, inclusion rider, could revolutionize Hollywood and transform all of America – because we have a national problem that spans far beyond the red carpet.
This is where inclusion riders of all shapes and forms come in. As a nation we need to lift each other up. We need to understand that if one of us can’t rise, all of us are kept down.
Standing up for one another is effective. One powerful recent Hollywood example is Jessica Chastain, who used her pay privilege to tie her contract together with Octavia Spencer when she learned Spencer was going to earn less on the film they were starring in together. Spencer tweeted that it worked; she’s now making five times her previous salary.
This is similar to what inclusion riders can do by having one person, the person with pay privilege, demand that others should be included, represented and paid fairly. But doing this individually won’t solve all our problems. To state the obvious: This won’t fully work if only women step forward. People of all genders in Hollywood should be using inclusion riders.
It also won’t work if only Hollywood moves toward fair pay and inclusion.
After all, it’s not just women in Hollywood who need a lift. Women across America would be better off if we were all treated, paid, hired and promoted fairly.
It turns out Hollywood is just a magnified version of America when it comes to dollars and (lack of) sense. The US Census Bureau reports that last year, women, on average, earned just 80 cents to a man’s dollar, with moms and women of color experiencing increased wage hits. Latinas earned only 54 cents for every man’s dollar, black women 63 cents, Native American women 57 cents, white women 75 cents, Asian-American and Pacific Islander women experienced a smaller wage gap on average, but still made 87 cents on average for every dollar made by men, with some subgroups experiencing much bigger wage gaps. Moms, on average, earned 71 cents to a dad’s dollar.
We have a situation.
Every year women lose more than $840 billion because of the wage gap. $840 billion. Our economy loses out, too, because women make the majority of purchasing decisions in our consumer-fueled economy. And our businesses, movies, legislatures, board rooms and C-suites also lose out on talent that could make their products soar because women not only face pay discrimination, we also face hiring and advancement discrimination.
Too many women are being excluded from fair pay and representation to the tune of billions of dollars.
It’s often easier to see the absence of inclusion and the depth of unfair pay in places such as Hollywood, where the spotlight is already shining brightly. Just recently Michelle Williams was paid less than $1,000 to reshoot scenes from “All the Money in the World,” while Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for his reshoots. That’s just 0.7% of what Wahlberg earned despite the fact that Williams joined him as a marquee star in the movie. After the news of the disparity broke, Wahlberg pledged to donate his earnings to the Times Up Legal Defense Fund in Williams’ name.
But the examples don’t stop there.
In fact, while the big Hollywood cash shows the glaringly large gaps in high definition, women every day in every state in our nation are facing enormous pay gaps in living technicolor – and we’re not just seeing these gaps in apples to apples comparisons of our paychecks. As two-thirds of all minimum wage earners, women are also at the epicenter of a crisis in our nation related to wealth inequality and our rapidly shifting work structures.
Threats to economic protections such as job-based retirement, health care, paid leave and other employer-linked benefits that play a role in stabilizing economic security disproportionately affect women because women are the majority of low-income workers, and low-income positions are the least likely to include these protections.
The growth of the “gig economy” adds to the pressure cooker that women face: Take the newly released data that analyzed more than 740 million Uber trips and found that female Uber drivers are paid 7% less an hour than male drivers, even though the algorithm is supposedly gender blind. This is an instance of women not having traditional employer-linked benefits and also experiencing unfair pay for equal work.
Quite simply, women are being excluded from economic security on more than one level. Improving inclusion while addressing wealth inequality will be crucial in the years to come. The need for universal protections and benefits that stay with the worker instead of being tied to a specific workplace, which everyone – at every wage level – can access, is becoming increasingly urgent.
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If we don’t address our national lack of inclusion, we’ll all lose out. Just look at what we could all win together: Businesses with more women in leadership make more profits, and if women had pay parity, one study found, the entire gross domestic product of our country would go up by 3%.
But women don’t.
So in honor of International Women’s Day, on Thursday, we need people of all genders to stand up – whether they stand on a red carpet or on a regular floor – and demand inclusion and equity for each and every person in our nation.