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Jennifer Lawrence Reveals How She Feels About The “American Hustle” Gender Pay Gap

Jennifer Lawrence say she was too worried about being “likable” to negotiate for equal pay.

Jennifer Lawrence Reveals How She Feels About The “American Hustle” Gender Pay Gap
[Photo: Tinseltown via Shutterstock]

Jennifer Lawrence wants you to know she isn’t difficult or spoiled. But she was concerned that’s how she would come across if she fought for the same compensation her male costars received in American Hustle.

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In a short essay in Lena Dunham’s newsletter Lenny, Lawrence admits she’s stayed out of the conversation on feminism because she generally doesn’t like to weigh in on “trending” topics. “But with a lot of talk comes change,” she writes, and proceeds to detail the reasoning behind her stance–or lack thereof.

Related: Is Lena Dunham’s New Newsletter Lenny What Feminism Needs Now?

Lawrence discovered the pay gap in the aftermath of the Sony hack last December, which revealed plenty of sensitive information from passwords of social media accounts to more than 47,000 Social Security numbers and other personal data on current and former employees and celebrities.

The breach also created a crisis among Sony’s ranks, revealing information that some, namely co-chair Amy Pascal, would have preferred to stay deeply buried. One of those items was the disparity in compensation between Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Christian Bale–a full two points (industry parlance for a percentage of the profit pool) less for the women than the men.

The Daily Beast report found that the hack also exposed a gender pay gap among Sony employees. Among 17 of the 6,000 employees making over $1 million, only one is a woman.

Lawrence says when she found out “how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks,” she got mad. At herself. “I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early,” Lawrence writes. “I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need.”

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But it’s not just about need, Lawrence continues. She didn’t negotiate because she believed that would set her up to be seen in a bad light and she just wanted to be liked–an element of her personality she admits she’s fought against, but continues to struggle with.

We know she’s not alone. From Sheryl Sandberg, who sees success and likability as a trade-off for women, to Oprah, who doesn’t consider herself a businesswoman despite her status as America’s first self-made black female billionaire, women continue to downplay their achievements and attempt to communicate in as non-threatening a way as possible.

The result, unfortunately in many cases, is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. Pascal subsequently explained in an interview:

I’ve paid [Jennifer Lawrence] a lot more money since then, I promise you . . . Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money . . . Women shouldn’t work for less money. They should know what they’re worth. Women shouldn’t take less. Stop, you don’t need the job that bad.

Negotiating is uncomfortable for many. But gender plays favorites and there is a higher social cost to pay when women angle for better compensation. A poll from Levo’s professional network found that 66% of nearly 200 women accepted an offer without negotiating any aspect of it.

Lawrence also realizes men don’t face that same challenge. “Every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled,” she writes. And why would they, when they get so much positive reinforcement? A recent analysis of a collection of about 250 performance reviews for men and women revealed that criticism was doled out more frequently to women, and it was less constructive and more personal. For example: “You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.”

Lawrence continues to experience this. She recounts an episode where she shared her opinion in a “clear and no-bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt.” His reaction? “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!” Lawrence says that despite seeing the men she works with share their opinions all day long, when she’s spoken up with her own in the same manner, she’s perceived as offensive.

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“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable!” Lawrence writes. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard.”

For Lawrence, as it is for many women, the learning curve is steep. Even in this forum that should be safe and supportive, Lawrence still sounds concerned about being “likable.” She prefaced her message with, “I want to be honest and open and, fingers crossed, not piss anyone off.”

Related: Why Can’t We Fix The Gender Wage Gap?

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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