Hollywood actor mamas, they’re just like us.
Well, maybe a little. Robin Wright, star of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” recently told the story of how she demanded to receive the same pay as co-star Kevin Spacey or she’d go public. Ends up she went public, but for a good reason: She’s getting paid what she deserves since issuing her demands.
Like many women who are paid less than their male counterparts, she noted that she fell behind when she became a mother.
According to a Huffington Post story:
“The actor, who shot to stardom after playing Jenny in the iconic 1994 movie ‘Forrest Gump,’ said her career trajectory later fell off track after having children with then-husband Sean Penn. Her two kids are now in their 20s.
‘Because I wasn’t working full time, I wasn’t building my salary bracket. If you don’t build that … with notoriety and presence, you’re not in the game anymore. You become a B-list actor. You’re not box office material,’ Wright said. ‘You don’t hold the value you would have held if you had done four movies a year like Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett did during the time I was raising my kids. Now I’m kind of on a comeback at 50 years old.’ ”
What Wright is describing isn’t unique. It even has a name. It’s called the Motherhood Penalty. Just replace box office with corporate leadership position, executive or partner, and Wright is like many other working mothers who have a gap on their resume.
“Women and men in the workforce who have kids see different things happen,” said Kevin Miller, senior researcher at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). “When you look at the overall data on salary over time, women who have kids end up taking a hit … whereas fatherhood earns a wage premium. Fathers earn more overtime.”
According to AAUW’s recent report “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership,” men see a 6 percent increase in earnings after they become a parent while new moms see a 4 percent decrease.
Women are still being paid 79 percent of what men are. Do we, as the 79 percent clock meme suggests, go home after we complete 79 percent of our work? Of course not.
But if women are treated like they aren’t equal or aren’t compensated properly, they will leave. Women, like Wright, are no longer willing to accept the penalty of being gone. Sure, Kevin Spacey kept working and earning while Wright was mostly gone from the scene. But so what? She’s a fantastic actress, they’re doing the same job now and so same pay is warranted.
Women that companies want and need — women you want in charge — will leave if they aren’t compensated fairly. They may stick around for a bit because things are comfortable, stick with the devil you know, blah blah blah. But the first opportunity they get, the first chance they have for better or equal pay and acknowledgement, they will walk.
And they have and they do. It’s called “taking time off.” Those women who take time off rarely are off. They start their own businesses, do consulting or project work. They find placements through organizations such as Power to Fly and the new Apres Group. They report about their situation and read up on whom they want to work for with organizations such as Fairy God Boss, where you can rate your company or find a job at one that has a good rating. In other words, women will do what women (what mothers) do. They get creative and they find a way.
Obviously, this isn’t possible for nearly enough women. People like Robin Wright have more leverage than your average worker. But there is a revolution of sorts going on, as women are finding new ways to get back to work after a gap in their résumé and demanding fair compensation.
“I would say it’s a revolution based on the reaction we’ve gotten,” said Jennifer Gefsky, the co-founder of Apres, which places people (men too) who are looking to reenter the workforce in jobs. The company launched two weeks ago and already has 10,000 women signed up ready for hire, 20 companies “officially on board” and is “in serious talks” with 250 more companies. “These women are so valuable.”
Of the women who have signed on with Apres, 68 percent are looking for full-time work and 50 percent have a graduate degree, Gefsky said. They may have taken time off, but they are ready and eager to work. Oh, and they still have that graduate degree and experience that they acquired before they became moms. Just like Robin Wright was a hugely talented actress before she had kids, and (surprise) she still is.
Gefsky was a lawyer and worked in a demanding job with Major League Baseball. But, like many new moms, she found herself commuting more than two hours each day, spending a lot of time at work, little time at home and feeling like she was not doing anything well. So she quit. “To be honest, I wasn’t thinking ‘What will I do three or four years from now?’ I was just relieved I was able to exhale.”
When she was ready to reenter the workforce after seven years away, she found it difficult. “I never had to look for a job as a lawyer before,” she said. “I was always recruited.”
So Gefsky and her co-founder Niccole Kroll started Apres based on a need they saw in her own lives. Any company that has signed on with Apres knows it is getting a woman with a gap on her resume.
In other words, those companies win while other companies who don’t compensate their returning mothers well, or who aren’t paying attention to how they are treating the working women in their organizations, are going to lose some powerful, hard-working employees who also happen to be mothers.
Or maybe even a star.
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