Benedict Cumberbatch vows to turn down any roles where his female co-stars don't get equal pay
The equal pay debate is still something that many people have difficulty coming to terms with. It's baffling to think that many people refuse to believe that it exists – referencing the fact that it's due to the difference in industries or roles women seek out, and that top businesswomen earning waaay more than their coworkers do exist.
Yes, it largely comes down to the fact that you need to hustle and negotiate yourself a good salary to get it (skills that far fewer women are taught than men), but there is no denying that there is a big, fat discrepancy in most industries that sees employees of the same position earn less because of their gender.
Historically, the pay gap has been bigger. But now that women are entitled to the same levels of education and can choose to pursue careers rather than forfeit it for family "duties", the playing field is changing. The pay, however, is not. Women are at the forefront of campaigning for equal pay, but it's also a responsibility for men to take action.
And the reasons why are perfectly demonstrated by a bold move actor Benedict Cumberbatch has just made. The Dr Strange actor recently spoke with Radio Times during the promotional circuit of Avengers: Infinity War, and he announced that from now on, he will refuse any film or television role which does not support equal pay.
"It’s about implementation," the 41-year-old said. "Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism. Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: ‘If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.'"
"I’m proud that [my friend and partner] Adam and I are the only men in our production company; our next project is a female story with a female lens about motherhood, in a time of environmental disaster," the Sherlock Holmes actor went on. "If it’s centered around my name, to get investors, then we can use that attention for a raft of female projects. Half the audience is female. And, in terms of diversity, Black Panther is now the third most successful film of all time."
He highlighted that much of the production effort of Hollywood appears to favor the recruitment of males. Which is ridiculous – especially when you consider (as Cumberbatch points out) that audiences are never exclusively male. His commitment to reject offers that are paid unfairly against his female co-stars is a big gesture to emphasize that.
Of course, it should also come down to the experience and acclaim of the individual too. It has been revealed that the stars of Netflix hit series Stranger Things have had huge salary increases thanks to the success of the show. 13-year-old Millie Bobby Brown (who stars as Eleven) is being paid way more than her male co-stars – mainly because she is such a central part of the show.
Winona Ryder and David Harbour earn the same amount per episode, but some people say this can't really be considered "equal pay" given that Ryder has been in the industry longer than Harbour, and has more industry awards to her name.
Nevertheless, the fact that pay disputes are being openly discussed – and especially with bold decisions from the likes of Cumberbatch – it's clear that organizations will finally need to recognize that "equal pay and a place at the table" is all we are asking for. Being denied that is not acceptable anymore.