[Update, July 1: This story has been updated to include more detailed pay statistics from Anheuser-Busch.]
In its newest national TV ad, the world's biggest brewer portrays itself as a staunch defender of paying women as much as men.
"Bud Light proudly supports equal pay," comedian Amy Schumer says. "Women don't get paid as much as men and that is wrong," co-star Seth Rogen adds.
So we asked Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgian beer conglomerate that brews Bud Light, whether it pays the thousands of men and women in its workforce equally.
The company won't say. It declined to provide data on how many women it employs, how much those women are paid, and how that pay compares to that of their male colleagues.
The ads were crafted to connect America’s best-selling beer to the growing debate over the gender pay gap. The ads also align with the company’s designation of women as a target market: The “equal pay” commercial premiered Monday night during an episode of ABC’s marriage-competition show “The Bachelorette.”
But the ads highlight an awkward reality for the beer giant — and the rest of corporate America. Companies are eager to benefit from the halo of taking a public stand on gender equality. But they are often less eager to discuss the potential gender problems in their own offices.
For every dollar the median U.S. man makes, the median woman makes 79 cents, Census Bureau data show. That gap is even bigger for women of color: For every dollar a white man makes, a black woman earns 60 cents, and a Hispanic woman earns 55 cents.
It's unclear whether such a gap exists in the beer giant's budget, but its workforce's gender composition is far from equal. About 17 percent of full-time Anheuser-Busch employees were women in 2014, the company said, according to the most recent, publicly available data. That's down from 29 percent of the company's workforce in 2011.
Alex Lambrecht, Bud Light vice president, said in a statement that the company uses "a rigorous and gender-blind compensation process" to decide wages.
"Our position on equal pay has been very consistent over the years," Lambrecht said. "We believe diverse perspectives are good for our business, and in equal pay for equal work."
But the company has faced major pay-gap scandals. Francine Katz, an executive who was once Anheuser-Busch's highest-ranked woman, sued the company in 2009 when she learned that her base salary, of $360,000, was about 57 percent what her male predecessor had earned for the same job.
Two women, including Katz, served on the company's influential 20-person strategy committee, and both were the committee's lowest-paid members, lawyers said. Katz only learned of the executive-salary difference after Anheuser-Busch was sold to InBev in 2008.
Katz lost her gender-discrimination suit in 2014 after jury members said they believed “the evidence was not enough to single out gender.” The company said afterward that the verdict showed Katz "was always treated and compensated fairly during her 20 years of employment."
The company is now fighting in court for Katz to pay its roughly $60,000 in legal fees, lawyers said. A hearing is scheduled for next week.
The company was also criticized last year when it sold Bud Light bottles with a slogan some said drew a connection to sexual assault: "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night." Lambrecht, the company vice president, said then, "It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it."
When asked about the company's broader gender breakdown, an Anheuser-Busch InBev spokeswoman shared specifics only on the company's U.S. marketing team, saying its 140 employees are "51 percent female-identified, 49 percent male-identified."
The actors in the ad, Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer, were paid the same for their roles in the campaign, the spokeswoman said. She would not comment on how much the actors were paid. Rogen's attorney declined to comment on the actor's pay, and a publicist for Schumer did not respond to messages.
Schumer was paid $300,000 to star in "Trainwreck," which she also wrote the screenplay for, and which made $140 million in worldwide box offices last year. She will receive between $4 million and $5 million for starring in an upcoming Fox comedy, The Hollywood Reporter said.
Rogen was paid $8.4 million for starring in the 2014 movie "The Interview," according to emails leaked in the Sony Pictures hack.
In the Bud Light ad, Rogen and Schumer discuss how women must often pay more for the same things, a problem consumer advocates call the "gender tax." When Schumer says women are charged more for cars, dry cleaning and shampoo (among other things), Rogen says, "You pay more but get paid less? That is double wrong!"
"That's why Bud Light costs the same, no matter if you're a dude or a lady," Schumer says.
Beer companies say they have changed their traditional old-boys'-club-style of beer advertising in hopes of reaching a broader market of female drinkers and regaining sales lost in recent years to liquor and wine.
Brewing giant MillerCoors said making beer more "gender friendly" could lead to added sales of 5 million barrels of beer over the next five years. Britt Dougherty, a MillerCoors senior director, told Bloomberg last year, “We’re going through a feminization of culture.”
The Bud Light ad was made by ad giant Wieden+Kennedy in New York, which crafted a similar ad on equal pay for Secret deodorant.
Few companies share data on how they pay men and women working the same job. Some of the companies that did share data revealed major pay gaps in their workforce (including at major newspapers, such as The Washington Post).
President Obama pushed earlier this year for rules requiring major American companies to report salary data based on gender. That new transparency could open some companies to federal investigations, lawsuits or public embarrassment.
The White House this month announced that at least 28 major companies had signed an "equal pay pledge." Anheuser-Busch InBev is not on the list.
[Update, July 1: After this story was published, Anheuser-Busch released more detailed information about its workforce and pay. The company says it has no gender "pay gap," and that, as of June 2015, the company's salaried female employees in the U.S. earn 99.6 percent as much as their male colleagues. That figure includes all salaried Anheuser-Busch employees in the company's New York City global headquarters and across the country.
In the U.S., the company's salaried employees are 27 percent female; if non-salaried employees are included, the workforce is 21 percent female. The spokesperson said the company is "not satisfied with the under-representation of women in the U.S. workforce, including our own." But the company, she added, uses "several programs to help drive solutions internally," and is "seeing signs of improvement." About half of the U.S. marketing team are women, and five of the company's 12 head brewmasters are women.]