Robin Wright has a hair style I would kill for but I don’t have the same cheek bones so haven’t bothered my hairdresser.
It’s not the only thing for which I admire her.
In the hugely popular political thriller House of Cards, Robin plays steely First Lady Claire Underwood, wife and co-conspirator of President Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey.
“There are very few films or TV shows where the male and female leads are equal. And they are in House of Cards,” said Robin who found out from research that she was as much of a drawing card (pun intended) as her co-star. Robin has appeared in all 52 episodes of House of Cards and both she and Spacey are executive directors of the series’ fifth season.
Equal in every respect, she was incensed to discover that Kevin Spacey was getting more money than her. She threatened studio bosses that she’d go public with this unpalatable fact and they caved in. Robin got the same pay as her co-star.
Well done that woman.
Wright is the latest high-profile actor to speak out about the gender pay gap in Hollywood. I have written about Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence who railed against men earning more than women in the film industry. Similarly, Patricia Arquette used her 2015 Oscars acceptance speech to demand equal pay and rights for women in Hollywood.
All very well for high-paid Hollywood stars but where does the UK stand in the gender gap of equal pay?
Not very well.
According to the World Economic Forum, the UK is number 18 in equal pay global ratings, lagging behind such countries as the Philippines, Nicaragua and Slovenia. Hang our heads in shame when we find out that Ireland is fifth!
Yet our Equality Act says: Employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do:
• ‘like work’ – work that is the same or broadly similar
• work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study
• work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making.
• Employees are also entitled to know how their pay is made up. For example, if there is a bonus system, everyone should know how to earn bonuses and how they are calculated.
The Act also says that an employee who thinks they are not receiving equal pay can write to their employer asking for information that will help them establish whether there is a pay difference and if so the reasons for the difference.
Easier said than done. I know women who have held back because they don’t want to be known as trouble makers.
More than four decades after the Equal Pay Act was introduced, the divide remains across the workforce. Looking at all workers, in full- or part-time employment, the gender pay gap is 19.1% . That UK figure compares with an EU average of 16.4%.
Among Britain’s top earners, the pay divide between men and women is nearly 55%, according to the TUC. The top 2% of male earners bring in more than £117,352 a year, while women get £75,745.
Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society: “There has never been a better opportunity to close the pay gap for good. Progress has stalled in recent years but with real commitment from government and employers, together with action from women and men at work, we could speed up progress towards the day when we can consign it to history.”
David Cameron has vowed to “end the gender pay gap in a generation”, and set out new rules forcing every company that employs more than 250 people to publish the difference between the average pay of its male and female employees.
Both the TUC and the Fawcett Society believe the government must go further, calling for action plans for employers to close the pay gap in their workplace, as well as tough penalties for companies that fail to comply.
So let’s hope the future will see equal pay for equal work become the norm.