Why Do Actresses Make Less Than Actors?

Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives for the premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 in Los Angeles on Nov. 16, 2015.

Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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Answer by Nina Jacobson, film and TV producer, producer of the Hunger Games movie franchise:

Q: Why do actresses make less than actors?

A: The biggest reason is that actors’ and actresses’ fees are determined based on their previous quotes. So if an actor has gotten his fee up over the years by proving his value in the marketplace, especially internationally, he will have quotes that influence what he makes on his next gig. Because there have been fewer opportunities for women to prove their value in the kinds of movies that make big money around the world, they don’t have the precedent, and that holds them back. 

The way to change it is to make more successful movies with female protagonists. I think people in Hollywood are finally getting the memo that there is a ton of upside in great stories starring women. The more of those movies we make, the more we can drive actresses’ fees up. 

I also think that Jennifer Lawrence’s essay points out another side to the issue, which is that women are often more worried about looking like brats than their male counterparts. We have to worry about that less if not for ourselves, then for our daughters so that parity becomes the expectation.

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Q: Is the movie industry getting better for women?

A: I think that the conversation about parity for women has finally come out of the shadows.  Increasingly, women in positions of influence are becoming bolder in speaking up, less fearful that if they take on the subject, they will look “high maintenance.”