Late last year, a massive hacking scandal shook up Sony Pictures and revealed what some of Hollywood's top brass really feel about race, salaries, and the "the insanity and rampaging ego" of Angelina Jolie. This week, outgoing Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairperson Amy Pascal sat down with Tina Brown to tell her side of what went really down -- including, significantly, why she thought it was okay to pay female actors less than their male costars.
Speaking at the Women in the World conference in San Francisco, Pascal cracked, "All the women here are doing incredible things in this world. All I did was get fired." And she addressed one of the most controversial revelations of the hack -- how Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were granted less back-end compensation for "American Hustle" than their costars Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale. "I’ve paid [Jennifer Lawrence] a lot more money since then, I promise you," she told Tina Brown, adding, "Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money." Pascal went on to assert to Brown that "Women shouldn’t work for less money. They should know what they're worth. Women shouldn’t take less. 'Stop, you don’t need the job that bad'.”
One can understand that the basic dance of any business negotiation is that the person with the money will try to pay the least, and the person with the services will try to obtain the most. And Pascal's argument in favor of women asserting themselves in the industry is surely more productive than the notorious advice of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who last fall advised women who want to request pay increases that "It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that, I think, might be one of the additional 'superpowers' that, quite frankly, women who don't ask for a raise have because that's good karma. It'll come back."
Waiting around for the universe to become fair hasn't really worked out for women so far in the entire history of the human race. But perhaps Pascal, a woman who negotiates with A list stars, who reportedly used to pay her assistant $250K a year, has forgotten that while women "shouldn't" take less, very few of them are in the position to do otherwise. Maybe the likes of Angelina Jolie could walk away from a deal, but Angelina Jolie lives in a very elite orbit. Consider that Pascal herself was the only female executive at Sony making over $1 million a year. Does she honestly believe that's because her female colleagues aren't playing hardball? Does she think that former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, who was at times paid $100K less than her male counterparts, "wanted" to work for less money? Nobody "wants" to make less money. They are instead often kept in the dark about their salary discrepancies. So how about if the people who hire them start by valuing them at least equally?
But I'll say this -- Pascal certainly seems great at taking her own advice. Though she modestly says that all she did was get fired, what's she's really done has been to deftly move over into a new gig. This week she announced she was joining the producing team for Sony's "Spider-Man" series. She's set to receive $30 million to $40 million over four years, as well as "a percentage of profits on movies she produces and roughly $9 million annually for office costs and discretionary acquisition of scripts." It's a deal the New York Times calls "among the richest in Hollywood history." Amy Pascal knows what she's worth. And it's a whole lot of money.