Why do CEOs get so much flak for income inequality while Hollywood actors get a pass? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Rebecca Metz, TV/Film/Theater/Voice/Improv Actor, on Quora:

First, there are a number of important differences between CEOs and Hollywood actors relative to the issue of income inequality.

  1. In addition to having power over their own compensation, CEOs have direct power over other people's compensation. Hollywood actors do not. We negotiate our own salaries. Even when an actor is a producer on a project, compensation decisions are generally made at the studio/network level -- and the people who DO make those decisions are overwhelmingly white and male. That goes to the next point...
  2. When we talk about income inequality, we are talking about the idea of equal pay for equal work. Opportunity for equal work is a HUGE issue in Hollywood right now, as there is a massive problem of underrepresentation of women and people of color both in front of and behind the camera. (See Hollywood Has A Major Diversity Problem, USC Study Finds and Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media - See Jane.) Women and PoC in Hollywood are often in the position of arguing for equal pay, only to have it pointed out that we/they don't have equally strong credits or experience, with no mention of the fact that that disparity is rooted in a long history of institutional discrimination.

Second, there is lots of discussion among Hollywood actors about equal pay. I've worked for three seasons on Showtime's Shameless, where Emmy Rossum recently waged a high-profile fight for equal pay, which was supported by William H. Macy and many other members of the cast and crew (and ultimately, the network.)

Jennifer Lawrence wrote a now-famous essay on the subject in 2015.

Emma Stone has been vocal about it.

So have Bradley Cooper and Jessica Chastain. (After Lawrence's essay, Cooper pledged to tell his female costars what he's making so they can be in a stronger negotiating position.)

The list goes on and on.

The issue is getting increasing coverage in industry trades and mainstream media:

It's also worth noting that the issue is fraught in Hollywood, because when actors speak out, they are inevitably attacked along the lines of 'millionaire actress is mad she doesn't make more money.' That argument completely misses the point of the equal pay issue, of course, but muddies attempts at public conversation about equal pay in Hollywood.

So the comparison between CEOs and actors regarding the responsibility for equal pay is problematic. Executives make those decisions in Hollywood too. And Hollywood is certainly not getting a pass on the issue, though progress is frustratingly slow.

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Published on: Feb 27, 2017