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Michelle Williams urges politicians to take action on the gender pay gap

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Moya Crockett
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The actor says she was “paralysed” after learning that Mark Wahlberg was paid over $1 million more than her for All The Money in the World reshoots.  

Michelle Williams has spoken out about her shock at learning that her male co-star was paid over $1 million more than her to reshoot scenes in a film – and implored lawmakers to do more to ensure men and women are paid equally for the same work.

Tuesday 2 April was Equal Pay Day in the US: the day signifying how far into the year women in the States must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. To mark the occasion, Williams travelled to Washington DC to deliver a speech on Capitol Hill in front of Democratic women politicians, in which she discussed her own experience of being paid dramatically less than a male colleague for the same work.

In 2017, it emerged that Williams had been paid much less than her co-star Mark Wahlberg to take part in reshoots for Ridley Scott’s film All the Money in the World. The reshoots were necessary after the movie’s lead, Kevin Spacey, was dropped from the cast in the wake of sexual assault allegations made against him.

But while Wahlberg made $1.5 million for the reshoots, Williams was paid less than $1,000.

“In late 2017, the news broke that I’d been paid less than $1,000 compared to the $1.5 million that my male counterpart had received for the exact same amount of work,” Williams said, per People

She was speaking in front of an audience containing prominent politicians including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women elected to the US Congress. 

Williams said that initially, “no one cared” that she had been paid so much less than Wahlberg.

“This came as no surprise to me, it simply reinforced my life-learned belief that equality is not an inalienable right and that women would always be working just as hard for less money while shouldering more responsibility at home.”

After learning about the disparity in pay, Williams said she was “paralysed in feelings of futility”.

“I’ve been a working actress since the age of 12. I’ve been accredited by my industry at the highest levels and that still didn’t translate to equal compensation.”

Things only changed, she continued, when fellow actress Jessica Chastain – a longtime advocate for equal pay – offered to post about her story on Twitter. This resulted in “an uproar and a public shaming within my industry” that led to Wahlberg donating his fee to the Time’s Up Defense Fund. 

Williams delivered her speech while advocating for House Democratic legislation to close the gender pay gap.

Her own story, she said, is “the kind of story I would normally resist: the morality tale with a happy ending, or rather a happy beginning because that’s really why I’m here.

“There won’t be satisfaction for me until I can exhaust my efforts ensuring that all women experience the elevation of their self-worth and its connection to the elevation of their market worth.”

The date of Equal Pay Day in the US is chosen by averaging together the incomes of women in all racial groups. However, this method has been criticised for obscuring the fact that black women, Native American women and Latina women earn significantly less than white women and Asian-American Pacific Islander women. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day will fall on 22 August, followed by Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day on 23 September and Latinas’ Equal Pay Day on 20 November, according to Fortune.

For more on why the gender pay gap is widening in the UK – and what can be done to stop it – click here.

Images: Getty Images