The yawning pay disparity between Mark Wahlberg and his female co-star on All the Money in the World, Michelle Williams, took center stage in a discussion about the changing nature of American workplace and the challenges that still confront women and minorities.
Wahlberg got paid $1.5 million for reshoots on the film while Williams received about one-tenth of one percent of that sum: an $80 per diem totaling less than $1,000. After the lopsided payday was exposed, the male actor pledged to donate his wage windfall to the Times Up legal defense fund for sexual harassment and abuse victims.
“Did the check from Mark Wahlberg clear yet?”Hearst Magazines Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles asked one of the prominent entertainment figures to launch the legal defense fund, lawyer Nina Shaw.
“Yes, Mark has written that check,” Shaw responded during a South by Southwest panel examining the changing workforce that featuring philanthropist Melinda Gates and TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot.
“You’re right to raise the issue of pay disparity,” Shaw said to an overflow crowed at SXSW in Austin, Texas. “Pay disparity is in the entertainment industry and where all women work.”
Shaw offered more details, which seemed to inflame, rather than contextualize, the pay-gap.
“Men often get paid more, not because they’re better actors, but they’re in stories where they drive the narrative,” Shaw said. “The reason they drive the narrative is they’re in stories that are picked by men.”
Shaw said Wahlberg used the leverage of contract language that allowed him to approve lead actors in the film to demand additional compensation when director Ridley Scott opted to reshoot scenes in the film, replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the role of J. Paul Getty.
It didn’t help matters that Wahlberg and Williams were represented by the same talent agency, William Morris Endeavor.
“It was a huge embarrassment,” Shaw said. “And out of it the Times Up legal defense fund did very well.”
The high-profile case shed a light on the entertainment industry’s lopsided-compensation. That heightened awareness, together with changes in employment law in California and New York City, are starting to tip the scales for women.
“With negotiations we’re just concluding now, with the new TV pilot season, and changes in the law in New York and California that don’t allow you to ask for past salary history, women are being paid more,” Shaw said.
The session touched on a range of workplace issues, from underrepresentation of people of color in the technology industry to the lack of venture capital investment in female-led startups.
“Today less than 2% of all venture capital funding goes to women-led startups. women of color get less than 1% of VC funding,” said Gates, who has helped make global issues such as access to birth control and women’s empowerment a top priority for the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Your chance of getting investment is miniscule.”
Gates said Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms tend to invest in what they know: guys from Stanford or Harvard. She’s chosen to break that cycle, investing in Aspect Ventures, venture capital firm founded by two women, Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad. Forty percent of its startups include female co-founders.
“They’re disproportionately funding women-led businesses with the goal of making money,” said Gates.
Brown-Philpot worked to change the conversation about diversity and inclusion. She actively recruited people of color in the decade she worked at Google, and now, as chief executive of her own tech startup, she strives to achieve gender parity.
“Our product is used by women,” said Brown-Philpot of TaskRabbit, which creates a marketplace for household services such as cleaning or repairs. “It would be silly not to have women in executive positions.”