A funny thing happened last month when Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay about the gender pay gap in Hollywood: all of a sudden, the conversation women across the globe across multiple industries had been having for at least two years mattered. And while women of color may be tempted to collectively roll our eyes at the sudden validation that comes from a White woman feeling our pain, Oprah Winfrey feels like the time may have just come.
“I think it’s a moment in time,” Oprah said, discussing Lawrence’s comments on CBS This Morning. “Those of us in the news business know that you can talk and talk about a thing and finally it hits a zeitgeist. I don’t think it’s changing. I think the conversation has hit a critical moment.”
Regardless of the reason behind the conversation, Hollywood “It Girl” Issa Rae (of Awkward Black Girl fame) has partnered with Make It Work—a campaign to amplify voter demand for fair and family friendly workplace policies—to create a series of short videos highlighting the continuing struggle of gender pay parity.
“In 2015, a woman working full-time is paid 79 cents for every dollar a man is paid,” Make It Work offers in its press release. “And it’s even worse for women of color: African-American women are paid just 60 cents for every dollar a White man is paid, and Latina woman are paid 55 cents. With women being two-thirds of primary or co-breadwinners in the U.S., this has a huge and devastating ripple effect on families, too.”
At the center of Rae’s Make It Work collaboration is a video titled “Lessons in Equal Pay From Corporate America,” starring Anika Noni Rose. It forces viewers to look at the ridiculousness of the gender pay gap through the eyes of elementary school kids. EBONY.com caught up with Rose to discuss her involvement with the project and whether she thinks the conversation has really shifted.
EBONY: How informed would you say you were about the wage gap before getting involved? What was the biggest lesson you learned from the process?
Anika Noni Rose: I was very aware of the wage gap. It has been very visible in my business for many years, and being a woman, I have been both a victim of and a witness to it. I’ve been very aware of it. And have turned down jobs because of it.
EBONY: What do you think the kids in the video brought to the conversation?
ANR: They were great because this was all new info to them, and they will step into the workforce when it’s time, armed and ready. And hopefully it will be a different situation that they encounter. If not… get ready for them.
EBONY: Do you think that now that this conversation has hit Hollywood, we have a better chance of getting to wage equality?
ANR: Who knows? Any time Hollywood talks about something, it’s more visible. But wagging tongues and big names don’t always mean results. The hope is that it will at least make people who aren’t aware of the abuse they’re dealing with—and make no mistake, it is abuse—aware, and hopefully strong enough to talk with with each other and band together to force change. Because Hollywood’s chatting about it, but Hollywood has yet to rectify this issue in its own house.
EBONY: Do you think that the gap for African-American women and Latinas gets equal attention as Whites in this conversation?
ANR: Absolutely not. Not in this conversation, and not in the world of feminism in general.