Salma Hayek’s call for male pay cuts misses a crucial point about value and respect

“It is time now to be generous with the actresses.”
“It is time now to be generous with the actresses.”
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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Salma Hayek Pinault made headlines today from the Cannes Film Festival when she suggested that highly paid male stars should take wage cuts to help bridge the gender pay gap.

Hayek, one of a number of actors who has spoken out against sexual misconduct (paywall) in Hollywood, including by producer Harvey Weinstein, said that men should make sacrifices to help with gender equality.

“It is time now to be generous with the actresses,” Hayek said. “If actors ask such inflated fees it will leave nothing for actresses. If the movie’s budget is $10m, the actor has to understand that if he is making $9.7m, it is going to be hard for equality. Otherwise they will kill the movie.”

But this approach is not necessarily one advocated by equal pay advocates, because of its focus on how much an employee earns, rather than how much they are valued and respected.

“You’re telling women, ‘Yeah, we’d rather take pay away from other people than increase your pay to what we had already defined as the value of this work,'” the co-founder of Ladies Get Paid, Ashley Louise, told CNN earlier this year. Louise’s comments came after news that male BBC presenters and the CEO of easyJet were taking cuts to their salaries to equalize them with their female colleagues.

For the FT’s Pilita Clark, male pay cuts are a problematic shortcut (paywall). Rather, fixing pay gaps “requires serious management effort, especially in industries long dominated by men.”

There’s also no guarantee that savings from these types of pay cuts would be redistributed, and they don’t explicitly address the underlying issues of persistent gender inequality that pervade the workplace, writes Scott Taylor of the University of Birmingham. Perhaps, Taylor writes, “men [should instead] contribute by arguing for more equal outcomes when setting pay rates, considering promotion applications, and making selection decisions.”

Hayek was one of 82 women who took part in a red carpet protest at the movie festival this weekend for equal rights. She acknowledged how divisive her suggestion of male pay cuts might be. “I will be hated for saying this,” she said. “I hope I can get another job.”