Pret-a-Reporter

This Is What TV Stars Say Can Bridge the Gender Pay Gap

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Jenna Elfman

During Elle's Women in Television celebration, we asked Hollywood's most influential women — Jill Soloway and Bonnie Hammer included — to impart some wisdom on finding solutions toward equal pay. Here's what we learned.

The gender pay gap consistently nets a fair amount of headlines — and deservedly so. But the disparity between what men and women deposit in their bank accounts has snagged even more of the spotlight in the weeks following the Sony hack because it was revealed that top executives — and even A-listers like Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Charlize Theron — aren't paid as much as their testosterone-boosted counterparts.

It added more fuel to the fire in Hollywood about why this exists and how it has become such a perplexing issue for Tinseltown's top talent. So when we had the chance to speak some famous names in the TV business on Tuesday night at Elle's Women in Television celebration (honoring cover girl Lena Dunham and presented by Hearts on Fire and Olay), instead of fishing for complaints, we opted to steer the conversation toward solutions.

We had a plethora of voices to pick from. Joining Elle's editor Robbie Myers at the chic dinner were Dunham, Shonda Rhimes, Julie Bowen, Sarah Hyland, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Sarah Paulson, Amanda Peet, Brittany Snow, Angie Harmon, Brooklyn Decker, Nina Dobrev, Gabrielle Union, Sia, Kate Walsh, Sasha Alexander, Kat Graham, Bella Thorne and many others.

And we received some great options to inspire change. Here are the answers, including one very special solution from Jill Soloway, who picked up a Golden Globe on Sunday night for her work in creating the groundbreaking Amazon series Transparent:

Jenna Elfman: "First of all, I get paid well and I've worked really hard for that. I have no complaints about what I get paid personally, but I have had to fight for random excuses that I can't make more than that guy because it would be awkward on set. I said, 'Awkward for who?' If you are very good at what you do — whether it be a janitor, a store keeper, an executive, a secretary, a pilot, an actor — the solution has always been to be the best at what you do. You're undeniable and they have to pay for it. And don't be an asshole. It's old-fashioned: Work your ass off, be the best that you can be and be kind."

Bonnie Hammer (NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group chairman): "The solution is that women have to believe in themselves, have more confidence in themselves and not be afraid to ask. No more fear in thinking, 'If I really push too hard or ask too much, they are going to find my secret and they are going to find I don't know as much as I think I know.' Women just have to gain the confidence that men have, and rightfully ask for what they believe to be equal — not in a nasty aggressive way but in a confident, warm way. It will start changing the equation."

Jill Soloway (Transparent): "The transparency that happened because of the (Sony) hack was awesome. I feel like demanding transparency everywhere. ... People aren't going to hire women because someone is telling them too. People are going to hire women because they can create the kind of work that isn't work that men can do. We're not trying to be as good as men. We're trying to create something that is specifically influenced by our femaleness. And that has a feeling that can't be replicated by anybody except for us. If you think about Amy (Poehler) and Tina (Fey) hosting the Globes together, maybe part of the reason they are so awesome is because they are best friends and they know how to share the spotlight. It would be really hard to imagine two guys doing that. There are so many things that are cool about not just women but the feminine or the feminine energy — feminine energy as collaboration instead of competition. That's our birthright. That's our rallying cry. Don't run from it, don't hide it, don't imitate it. Embrace it and make the kind of work where people are like, we have to hire women because we want to be a part of this thing people are talking about.

Tracee Ellis Ross (Blackish): "I actually strangely think that saying there is a gender gap is antiquated because the dialogue around gender has completely changed. There is an issue in our country around people understanding equality and worth, and the worth of human beings in general for the work that they do. We as a country need to work on seeing people and their humanity for who they are, not based on gender, race, anything. We are having trouble with that so dialogue is always the way to go. And action. Sometimes knowing what the right action is comes from the dialogue."

Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt): "Speaking of pay grades, this is a question beyond my pay grade (laughs). The solution is to be gender blind, but I don't know how that is accomplished. I've never felt that I've been discriminated against in pay because I'm a woman, which is a lucky situation to be in. I don't know enough about the economics of Hollywood to know why men are paid more than ladies, especially on an executive level. But I know that it makes no sense."

Stana Katic (Castle): "I think you pay people based on their work and not based on gender. It's that simple."

Emily Wickersham (NCIS): "The solution is more women speaking up, like Lena Dunham. She speaks her mind, is super honest and people respect her for that."

Katheryn Winnick (Vikings): "It has to start from the top and the bottom. What I mean by that is from the bottom, you need the material to be written for strong women. It starts with the writers ... And then from the top, studio heads who are willing to finance, invest and distribute vehicles with leading ladies."

Karen David (Galavant): "I come from one of the last matriarchal societies in the world — I was born in Shillong near the Himalayas. I know what it's like to be proud of being a woman and being a strong, tiny but mighty, woman. It's something that we celebrate. I'm hoping with more events like this, celebrating women in television, that we can inspire other women. It sends a really powerful message to the powers that be that we are just as valuable and important."

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