A couple of weeks ago, Forbes revealed its annual list of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, with Robert Downey Jr. effortlessly landing the top spot. This week, the publication has released the list of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, with Jennifer Lawrence taking the number one spot followed by Scarlett Johansson — hardly surprising, but what makes this list interesting is that many of the women on it earn far less than their male counterparts.
According to the Forbes list, Lawrence makes $52 million a year, while Downey Jr. comes in at $80 million. Sure, Downey Jr. has been in the business for far longer, but when you take a closer look at the two lists, the gender wage gap is striking. Here’s the top 10 list of this year’s highest-paid actresses:
1. Jennifer Lawrence — $52 million
2. Scarlett Johansson — $35.5 million
3. Melissa McCarthy — $23 million
4. Bingbing Fan — $21 million
5. Jennifer Aniston — $16. 5 million
6. Julia Roberts — $16 million
7. Angelina Jolie — $15 million
8. Reese Witherspoon — $15 million
9. Anne Hathaway — $12 million
10. Kristen Stewart — $12 million
Yep, that all seems about right — but there is something wrong about it, as Mashable points out. The combined income for the top 10 highest-paid actresses in 2015 comes in at $218 million, while the combined income for the top 10 men is $431 million. That’s nothing to scoff at. You’ll also note that the most veteran actress on this list is Julia Roberts at number six, who only commands $16 million a year — that’s half as much as Mark Wahlberg, who came in at number 10 on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid men.
Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Sandra Bullock tied for the number 13 spot with $8 million each. Meryl Streep, our most revered and enduring American actress, makes only $8 million a year — and while that seems difficult to complain about, take a look again at the list of the highest-paid actors. Chris Pratt and Andy Lau come in at the bottom, sharing the number 33 spot with $13 million. Even the lowest-paid men on that list make more than half the women on the highest-paid actresses list.
You simply cannot look at these lists and not see the disparity, and it’s happening all over the place — not just in this annual list. Following the hack on Sony, leaked emails revealed that both Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars for American Hustle, even though Lawrence was — and continues to be — the biggest actress in the world. Jeremy Renner, who doesn’t even appear on Forbes’ list of highest-paid actors this year, was paid more than Lawrence and Adams, and his role was far more secondary than either of his female co-stars.
Part of the issue is, of course, the lack of roles for women. Although we’re experiencing a bit of a tidal change as women-driven films have increased in popularity, studios still find these projects to be too risky.
Many actresses have recently spoken out about sexism in Hollywood — and that’s exactly what this is: by paying women less than men in any career field, we’re telling women that their contributions are not nearly as important or valuable as men.