Salma Hayek On The Simple First Step Toward Ending Hollywood's Woman Problem

05/18/2015 01:41 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015

Salma Hayek has some awesome ideas about how to break down Hollywood sexism.

In a May 17 interview for The Hollywood Reporter's Women In Motion talks, Salma Hayek and co-speaker Matthias Schoenaerts discussed sexism in Hollywood, and the many different ways women are chipping away at it.

The Hollywood Reporter's Janice Minn kicked off the discussion by asking how Hollywood can get men involved in creating more spaces for women in the film industry.

Hayek had one suggestion: “There’s a very simple answer and really a very simple solution," she said. "You get [men] involved the same way that you get men involved in anything and the only way you can inspire them: money.”

The 48-year-old actress told the story of when she was trying to get "Ugly Betty" on air and everyone rejected her pitch. As the executive producer of the TV show, Hayek realized the only way to get the show on-air was to "try to prove our power as a consumer."

"I was trying to do a telenovela where the leading role was a girl that was not pretty... that had a new visual proposition," Hayek said. Knowing the networks were underestimating the value of a one-hour comedy about a Latina woman, Hayek pointed advertisers and producers to statistics on how large the Latino population is in the U.S. -- and their proportion of television audiences. "Ugly Betty" was on the air in no time.

“Every time you try to bring something new, they run for their lives," Hayek said. "But once they saw the money, we got on the air immediately!”

The actress also described how demonstrating the power of female consumers can be an effective approach to promoting equality, telling Minn, "We look at the statistics as victims… We have to come in a position of power. It’s not like, ‘Oh you haven’t noticed us!’ No, it’s like, ‘You don’t know what you’re missing.’ And when they know that what they’re missing is money, they’ll jump in that boat at speed light.”

“They are forgetting that there is this X generation of smart women that have a huge power of economical power," she said. "We are successful, we work, we make our own money and we are a very strong consumer.”

Hayek pointed out another sexist dilemma many women have to deal with on set: that leading actors often have a say in who gets cast in the leading female role. “Already they don’t pay us the same!” she said. “It should be the director’s choice, not the actor’s choice. The fact that he has a say who he gets to kiss or not -- I find that very sexist." Preach.

Schoenaerts weighed in later, telling Minn that stories about women have great potential to inspire and also -- to make money. "Within the industry we don’t seem to see [the value of women] and we don’t seem to translate it onto the stories we tell, he said. "And there’s an enormous beauty and depth to what the female represents and what she embodies in all her dimensions. I think there’s an enormous potential for beautiful stories that eventually might make money."

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