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Jessica Chastain on why we’re all to blame if we stay silent about salaries

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Susan Devaney
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Jessica Chastain has revealed why she negotiated a much higher salary for fellow actress, Octavia Spencer. 

Jessica Chastain has never been one to hold back when it comes to showcasing women. From actively fighting to close the gender pay gap to calling Time’s Up on sexual harassment in the film industry, Chastain uses her voice to encourage change.

Now, the award-winning actress has revealed why she actively fought for fellow actress, Octavia Spencer, to be paid more.

“This is the God’s honest truth – I care more about what Octavia’s getting paid than what I’m getting paid. Because I’ve got a great life,” Chastain told The Hollywood Reporter. “I am more concerned about her than I am about me. Equal pay for equal work!”

The Molly’s Game actress first offered to help Spencer after learning on the set of The Help that she was being paid significantly less than her co-stars.

“I knew women of colour got paid less than Caucasian actresses. What I didn’t know is someone of Octavia’s level, who had an Oscar and two Oscar nominations, how much less she would be getting paid. When she told me what she was making, that’s what really made me go, ‘Hold up, that doesn’t compute in my brain.’”

Chastain, who runs her own production company and is currently working on a comedy with Spencer, believes that to close the pay gap we all have to speak up in the workplace.

“Your silence is your discrimination,” Chastain said. “So if you are succeeding in an environment where there is discrimination, you are actively being discriminatory.”

Earlier this year, Spencer discussed the conversation she had with Chastain about pay disparity during a panel discussion for Women Breaking Barriers at the Sundance Film Festival.

“I told her my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she said she had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of colour,” Spencer recalled.

“She said, ‘You and I are going to be tied together. We’re going to be favoured nations and we’re gonna make the same thing, you are going to make that amount.’ Fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”

Spencer couldn’t praise Chastain enough for helping her negotiate a much higher salary. 

“She provided a much-needed shoulder and listened,” Spencer explained. “And then she did what she always does: she took up my cause and made it her own. As a friend, she’s your biggest cheerleader; but as a colleague, she’s your most vocal advocate.”

You can read more on the gender pay gay here.

Images: Getty