An academic study recently published in the Journal of Management Inquiry followed movie stars' wages over the last 40 years. The brainiacs who did the study used complex algorithms and scientific research methods and found that female movie stars' salaries peak at age 34 and then drop off significantly. Male movie stars' salaries don't peak until age 51 and stay pretty steady until they're embalmed.
That's almost a 20-year age/wage gap. Yikes.
I was interviewed about this study on HuffPost Live last week. I'm no scientist but I've never been short of an opinion. Here are my theories on the matter:
1. Men Make More Money Than Women. Period.
The Study of Hollywood Movie Stars represents a microcosm of our society. In Hollywood or in the corporate world we're still paid less, we keep hitting the glass ceiling and we continue to try to climb the proverbial ladder. (This is for those who may have lived under a rock for the last 100 years.)
2. It's About Supply and Demand.
Since there are fewer great roles for women, there are more female actors vying for those few great roles:
Fewer roles + more female actors vying for those roles = agents have less bargaining power to get their clients more money.
Actors are passionate and they love their craft. If they're passionate enough about a coveted role, many female actors -- even famous ones -- will take the job, big paycheck or not.
3. Old White Men Run Hollywood.
Of the top 15 Box Office films in 2013, 11 are in the Fantasy genre (the remaining four are animated). Old White Men love to make Fantasy films that reflect themselves on screen blowing up things, saving the world and having sex with much younger women. They greenlight more Action Hero/ Fantasy movies which means fewer roles for women above the age of 40.
4. Bigger Budgets lead to Misconception.
There is way more money being spent on Action and Superhero films than Chick Flicks. Why? (See #3)
Here's the equation:
More Money = Bigger Budgets.
Bigger Budgets = Bigger Marketing Pushes.
Bigger Marketing Pushes = Bigger Box Office.
Bigger Box Office = Misconception that movies starring men make more money.
The Result: Male actors get paid more.
5. Women of ALL ages DO go to the movies.
The Gender Share of all Moviegoers is 50/50.
The Age Share of the total population of Moviegoers is:
20 percent age 25-39, 14 percent age 40-49, 14 percent age 50-59, 20 percent age 60+
Concluding that Female Movie Goers, 40+ ARE going to the movies. If there were more movies we wanted to see we'd probably go to the movies even more than men. (Heck, it beats sitting at home knitting.)
6. Women of ALL Ages DO Go to the Movies. (Not a typo, I'm repeating myself to make a point). The old dudes that run Hollywood are slowly starting to figure this one out. Of the top five Box Office Grossing Movies of 2013, three are female centric or have female main characters.*
1. The Hunger Games *
2. Iron Man3
3. Despicable Me *
4. Frozen *
5. Man of Steel
(Hmmmm... so stories about women and girls DO sell tickets!)
7. The Glass is Half Full.
Two Words: SANDRA BULLOCK.
Things are looking up for us 'Mature' Mamas!
8. TV Execs Like to Make Lots of Money Too.
TV Networks are "getting it" faster than the movie studios. There are now more stories about women 40+ on television. More TV shows = more jobs and more opportunity for women of all ages.
Sofia Vargara = Highest TV earner in 2013 at age 41. YGG!
Let Me Bottom Line it For You:
Ten years ago, future YouTube stars didn't sit around wondering how they were going to infiltrate the networks so they could showcase their talent. They had a unique voice and the new technology gave them a platform. Now many of these "stars" are being offered big paychecks by companies like Fullscreen and others to join their channel.
Our industry is changing. We are transitioning from movie studios and network TV to on-demand streaming media through Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and more. Getting our stories out there has become easier. Movies are cheaper to make and there are many avenues for self-distribution.
"Nobody needs the studio anymore. All you need is the confidence
and the voice to start creating." -Jill Soloway, Independent Filmmaker
Yeah, sure we could sit around and complain about how unfair things are, but the time for talking about the problem is over. It's time to tell our stories. It's up to the women writers, producers and directors to tell stories about women over the age of 34! Stories about how fabulous we are in our 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.
Let's "LEAN IN" Hollywood style, and get our stories out there.
More stories by, for and about women = more opportunities = more money.
Now let's get busy, make up cool stories about our sisters and hire each other.