The Queen, the Doctor, and the Gender Pay Gap
In yet another chapter of the gender pay gap saga, there is now a petition going around attempting to convince Matt Smith to donate part of his salary from his stint on "The Crown" to Time's Up, an organization created to defend women from harassment, assault, and inequality in the workplace, because he was apparently paid more for his supporting role as Prince Philip than Claire Foy was for her starring role as Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix drama. I'm unable to find any exact figure for what Smith was paid for his work on "The Crown," but it was apparently more than the $40,000 per episode that Foy was paid. This seems only to confirm her pay for the first season of the show, and it's entirely possible that she was paid more for the second season. Since I'm unable to confirm that she was paid more for the second season, however, let's assume that her pay remained the same and point out that she made at least $800,000 for the twenty episodes that she portrayed the Queen.
While it's hard to sympathize with a person who was paid more for less than two years worth of work than most people in the world will ever see in their lives, let's take the arguments on their own merits. From the petition:
You know gender pay gaps are a problem when even the Queen isn't paid fairly.
At a recent conference, Netflix producers admitted that for two seasons, they paid Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth on "The Crown", much less than her costar Matt Smith who plays her on-screen husband, Prince Phillip.
Sign my petition asking Netflix and Matt Smith make up for this sexist pay gap by donating the difference in their paychecks to the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund for Sexual Harassment & Abuse Victims!
Women in all industries are facing a struggle for pay equality. Women in the US are typically earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts for full time work. And the pay gap for women of color is even more striking. Black women typically only make 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts and Latinx women only make 54 cents on average.
While it may be easy for some to dismiss gender pay disparity for already high-paid actors like Claire Foy, I believe that publicly addressing high-profile cases of sexism will also help create greater opportunities for all women — in all careers.
Let's first address the claim that it is sexist in and of itself to pay Matt Smith more to appear in the show than Claire Foy. Smith's role is admittedly smaller than Foy's, considering the purpose of the show is to follow the life of Queen Elizabeth II played by Foy, but not by much. Playing the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, means that Smith has almost equal time on screen as Foy. This is not to take away from the fact that Foy is the star of the show, but merely to make the point that there's not a large disparity in the amount of actual work that the two actors did.
Then there's the simple fact of experience: up to the point of their casting, Matt Smith had been a far more successful actor than Claire Foy had been. Smith had been the star of the international hit television series "Doctor Who" from 2010-2013 and had a large, existent fan base who might be willing to watch "The Crown" simply based on the fact that he was in it. Foy had only ever been in lesser-known productions and had never been the star of a hugely successful television series.
Foy, therefore, brought less experience and her name carried less weight with potential viewers than Smith's did, and this is why Smith was paid more than Foy. This is all perfectly reasonable and logical as it would apply to any workplace. The less experienced workers bring less value to potential employers than more experienced workers, and so they are compensated at a lesser rate in general regardless of their genders.
It should also be noted that Claire Foy voluntarily agreed to take the role for the amount of money that she was paid. She may have felt as though she wasn't necessarily being paid what she was worth based on her acting talent or any other factors, but hoped that this role might prove popular enough that she could demand a higher salary for future roles. If this was her logic it seems to have paid off, because it's almost a certainty that she'll be able to demand higher pay given the popularity of the show and the quality of her award-winning performance.
Regardless of Foy's opinion of what she deserves to be paid, she obviously felt that taking the role for the agreed upon $40,000 per episode was worth it, or she wouldn't have done so. It's possible that she would have asked for more if she had known what Matt Smith was making, but that's true of anyone who takes on a new job. We all might ask for more if we knew what our potential new co-workers were making, though that does come with the risk of being passed over for someone less expensive especially if we don't have a lot of experience or demonstrable success in our field as was the case for Claire Foy before she got this role.
Moving on to the issue of the "Gender Pay Gap" itself, the petition claims, "Women in the US are typically earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts for full time work." This claim is based on fallacious studies that simply look at the average compensation for all men who work full-time and compare it to all women who work full-time and then chalk up the difference to sexism. This neglects several other relevant factors that have nothing to do with sexism, but with the different life and career choices that men and women are, on average, likely to make. In her testimony before the Joint Economic Committee in 2010, Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute stated:
If we compare wages of men and women who work 40 hours a week, without accounting for any differences in jobs, training, or time in the labor force, Labor Department data show the gender wage ratio increases to 86 percent, as can be seen in figure 1-2. Marriage and children explain some of the wage gap, because many mothers value flexible schedules. In 2009 single women working full-time earned 95% of men’s earnings, but married women earned 76%, even before accounting for differences in education, jobs, and experience.
When the wage gap is analyzed by individual occupations, jobs and employee characteristics, regional labor markets, job titles, job responsibility, and experience; then the wage gap shrinks even more. When these differences are considered, many studies show that men and women make about the same. For instance, a 2009 study by the economics consulting firm CONSAD Research Corporation, prepared for the Labor Department, shows that women make around 94% of what men make. The remaining six cents are due to unexplained variables, one of which might be discrimination.
The six cents "might be discrimination," or it might be nothing at all; it might be completely nonexistent. Such is the nature of these studies that there must be a margin of error. The point here is that when extremely relevant factors are included in the analysis there is almost no gender pay gap to speak of. Women with the same experience, working the same job in the same place make exactly the same as their male counterparts. The problem, such as it is, is that women in general are more likely to go into jobs that pay less or to drop out of the workforce for a number of years to take care of their family than men in general are. I know that it's "sexist" to make this perfectly defensible claim in certain circles, but it's true nonetheless.
So the question is: Should Matt Smith donate some of his salary from "The Crown" to Time's Up to combat the nonexistent gender pay gap? Well it may be a good idea for him to do so on the basis that public pressure from petitions like this might sully his reputation if he doesn't, and future productions may not want to take the risk that casting him would bring unwanted controversy onto them. So in that sense it may be perfectly logical for him to pay what is essentially a ransom just so that he can move on with his life, but there is no question at all that he owes any money to Time's Up or anyone else simply because he was able to demand a higher wage than Claire Foy.