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Girls & Women

Female Stars of ‘Big Bang Theory’ Are Demanding Equal Pay for Equal Work

Flickr/BagoGames

While pay disparity between male and female actors has long been an issue in Hollywood, the cast of TV’s biggest sitcom is taking matters into their own hands to help level the field.

The four male stars of the “Big Bang Theory,” — Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg — are raking in $1 million per episode, while female co-stars Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch make just $200,000. 

And while $200,000 per episode is no small beans, Bialik and Rauch believe they are worth more than one fifth of their co-stars. 

Recognizing their valuable contributions to the show, the show’s four male stars and Kaley Cuoco (who does make as much as her male coworkers), have all agreed to take $100,000 per episode pay cuts, according to the Huffington Post

This move will bring Bialik and Rauch’s salaries up to a (still-insufficient) $450,000 per episode, or half that of their male co-stars, as they go into salary negotiations. 

Read more: Top-Paid Women Actors Make Half as Much as Men in Hollywood

While these pay cuts show forward movement in addressing Hollywood’s pay disparity, the gender pay gap still remains a major obstacle for female actors, especially female actors of color. 

Between June 2015 and June 2016, the world’s highest paid actor (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson) made $20 million more than the world’s highest paid actress (Jennifer Lawrence), according to Vanity Fair

Of the 20 highest paid Hollywood stars in 2015-2016, just four were women. 

Much of the pay disparity can be traced back to a lack of female representation in film and television. 

Just 7% of the 250 highest-grossing films in 2016 were produced by a female director, which impacts the number of speaking and starring roles for women. According to a study by USC Annenburg, 71% of speaking roles between Sept. 2014 and Aug. 2015 were doled out to male actors. That proportion is slightly less offensive in cable television, but still 62% of speaking roles in cable television were given to males. 

For women of color, the pay and representation disparity is even worse. Black women make 64 cents to the dollar in comparison with white men, in general, and in Hollywood they suffer from a serious lack of representation. Just two of the top 10 grossing actresses in 2016 were women of color (none of them black) and only five of the top 33 women comedic actresses were of color (one of them black) in a “Variety” list

Read more: Women Across Europe Are Walking Out of Work Early to Demand Equal Pay

Several female stars have taken a stand against the pay parity issue.

Jennifer Lawrence, who is the world’s highest-paid actress, spoke out after Sony’s files were hacked and it was revealed that she earned less than her male costars in “American Hustle.” Robin Wright made headlines when she demanded she be paid the same as her “House of Cards” co-star Kevin Spacey.

Meryl Streep and Viola Davis have confronted Hollywood’s pay gap in powerful speeches and it seems that finally the playing field is beginning to slowly slant in the right direction. 

According to the Guardian, female protagonists in film reached the highest ever proportion in 2016. 

That proportion? A mere 29%.   

This goes to show that there is still a long way to go for real pay parity.