If you ever thought that as you move up the career ladder and gained more clout in your industry negotiating as a woman would get easier, Hollywood A-lister Jennifer Lawrence has some depressing news for you. The difficulties women face in negotiating apparently never go away.

You'd think that the Oscar-winning actor would have the power to basically name her price, but in a much-discussed recent essay for Lena Dunham's new newsletter, Lenny, Lawrence opens up about the continuing pay gap between her and her male co-stars -- and vows to do something about it.

"I'm over trying to find the 'adorable' way to state my opinion and still be likable," she writes.

Only women worry about being called brats.

The impetus for the powerful piece was the recent hack of Sony emails, which revealed that Lawrence was paid substantially less than her male co-stars for the movie American Hustle. The trove of emails also contained messages in which a producer referred to Angelina Jolie as "a spoiled brat," which highlighted the double standards that lay behind this pay gap.

"For some reason, I just can't picture someone saying that about a man," she writes. "Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share," she states.

"I failed as a negotiator," she goes on to say. "I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled'. At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the internet and realised every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being 'difficult' or 'spoiled'."

But Lawrence is done with this no-win situation, she announces. From this point forward she vows to stop worrying about whether anyone is going to call her a brat.

A broader problem

While Lawrence concedes that the troubles of a star who made around $52 million last year may not exactly be relatable to the average woman, the double bind she faces when she sets out to negotiate a deal is all too recognizable to most female professionals. Be strong, and you're dubbed angry, hysterical, unpleasant. Be soft and you get a crappy deal.

The results of this no-win situation? "Women in entertainment and media, roles with high visibility and social influence, take home about 85 percent of their male colleagues' pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics," reports the Washington Post. And the problem exists more broadly as well, according to the article: "In 2014, women working full-time jobs made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a difference of 21 percent."

So what's to be done? A pile of research shows that women's fears about pushing hard in negotiations are sadly rational. They're often punished more severely than men for being tough. The best solution would, of course, be a cultural shift in which we put aside tired stereotypes of female behavior, but until that day comes there's also plenty of advice out there on how to best negotiate as a women.

Do you relate to the difficulties Lawrence writes about?

Published on: Oct 15, 2015
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