The fight for equal pay across the entertainment industry

From film, theatre, TV, video games, circus, festivals, pubs, clubs, radio, the creative and cultural output of the entertainment industry is, without any doubt, an intrinsic part of our daily lives. 

So intrinsic that the average person would, I feel, be appalled by the commonality of abusive behaviour and practices that are a feature of the day-to-day working lives of Equity’s 48,000 members. This is, for example, an industry where it is still common for our members to be asked to work for nothing to ‘gain exposure’ or ‘build your CV’. It is because of this that Equity developed its Professionally Made, Professionally Paid campaign, that strategically seeks to extend collective bargaining coverage and ensure that members are aware of their contractual and statutory rights. 

In the political economy of the entertainment industry, it is unsurprising then (although utterly unacceptable) that when Equity members are expressly undertaking work of equal value-conscious decisions are made by production companies that deem the work of women to be worth less than that of men. One of the more recent high-profile exposures of such practice was the disclosure that in the Netflix production, The Crown, Clare Foy had been paid less than co-star Matt Smith, with other equally high profile cases evidencing a chronic, systemic problem.

This is a feature of a wider pattern of discriminatory practice, which extends to disparities across the industry including; significant differences in public funding awarded to female-led production companies, low levels of women writers and directors working across the industry. It is important to add that in the industry that helps create and project notions of the nature of women in society, there are chronic disparities both in the roles played by women – perpetuating stereotypes and problematic issues around preferred body type, but also a distinct issue of age discrimination experienced by older women members of the union. 

Alongside these distinct dimensions of discrimination in the entertainment industry are those more commonly experienced issues that can underpin inequalities in pay, including the ‘penalties’ incurred as a result of parental and caring responsibilities. Here, Equity works closely with a partner organisation including Parents in the Performing Arts (PiPA), to champion family-friendly policy and practice, and notably the inclusion of flexible working opportunities and job share – something seen by some in the industry as an anathema but gaining some traction

As a trade union with self-employed workers as members, we face the typical hurdle of encouraging open discussion around pay (and non-payment) to identify where inequality and anomalies exist. I have welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the new equal pay Toolkit from the Equality Trust and I hope that the publicity arising from its launch creates another catalyst to give Equity members the confidence to speak up around inequalities in pay and help support the agenda to end discrimination.

Dr. Ian Manborde, Equalities & Diversity Officer, Equity

*This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.