People don't like to talk about money. It isn't polite, someone says, and everyone nods their heads in agreement. Well, maybe it's the rebel in me, but I want to call Bull$hit on that rule. Let's talk about money. Let's talk loudly about money. Let's talk about how much debt you're in and how much debt I'm in and what we're expecting for the future, so that we don't become a statistic about money being the #1 reason couples fight and get divorced. Let's tell each other what we're making so that we don't find out later that the guy in the next cubicle who is doing less work than you is making a third more. Let's talk about equal pay for equal work. Let's talk about #metoo and #TimesUp.
Money is power because that's the energy some people have placed on making money. I believe it's one of the factors that has led to sexual harassment and our new paradigm. I'm a woman and a minority who's worked in entertainment and media for about 20 years now. About 10 years ago, a guy I met at a dinner party in New York City calls me up when we're both back in Los Angeles. He wants to "keep in touch." Since I don't usually like to meet up with strangers, I call the friend who introduced us, to get a little background. She says he had recently gotten married, that he's an executive producer for a few shows and it would be good to get to know him, since we're both in the entertainment industry. So, we meet up for drinks at a bar in West Hollywood. It's suitably dark, I notice when I walk in. He's at the bar waiting. I say hello and I congratulate him on his recent wedding. He narrows his eyes, slightly taken aback. Then, he clears his throat to tell me that it's not working out, and they've now separated.
Uh...oh...I know where this is going. He tells me that he took the liberty to get us a table, and if I was hungry, we could have dinner. I'm not sure what it is that doesn't quite allow me to say "No, thanks" and then leave. Maybe it's that need to be a "good girl" that keeps me from walking out the door immediately. I don't know, but I stay. I sit down, order some food, and he starts telling me about his house in the Hollywood Hills. There's a hot tub, he says, and when you're in it, you can see all of Los Angeles twinkling below. It didn't sound romantic to me. It just gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I fake smile and nod. Then, he tells me he has access to a private plane, and we could go tonight to Las Vegas. I laugh nervously. Without any hesitation or awkwardness, as if it was the most natural thing anyone has ever said to another person, he then says, "stick with me kid, and you'll never have to find another job again! Anytime I'm running a show, I'll bring you in."
At this point, I tell him that my boyfriend is waiting for me, and that I have to run. I leave a little astounded and shaken. I'm not an actress, but I think I just had my first "casting couch" experience. Instead of putting me in a big movie and paying me a million dollars, however, this guy was offering me a producer job whenever he worked. Granted, I had only been producing for a few years at this point, but I could get producer jobs on my own. I didn't need to sleep with a man who may or may not be married and who was a lot older...for a job. Did anyone fall for this, and why did he target me, I wonder? I'm not the cute, innocent, wide-eyed, naive girl, even if I am from Texas.
I believe that this guy and other incidents happen because these men see me and any woman they can harass as lesser in value. They believe they make more money and that they can offer me something (i.e. a job), so it gives them a false illusion of power. Sometimes, it works. I saw it in Thailand. While filming a show there, I had asked our local production facilitator why a pretty, young woman was dating her much older, unattractive, balding, overweight, foreign boss, and why I saw a lot of pretty, young Thai women dating men that, to most people, would seem mismatched. Looks are subjective, but my Thai co-worker told me it was because the men could provide the women with money, security and a way out of their poorer circumstances.
"Ultimately, not paying people for their time and for what they're worth devolves into a culture where people feel like it's OK to take advantage of others..."
I believe if we paid people what they're worth and not take advantage of someone just because they're willing to do it for little or no money, then you are less likely to create a culture where one person is more powerful than another. If you start out by taking advantage of someone's good will and willingness to learn and start out at your company by either not paying them or paying them very little, some people start to see those people with less value. I mean think about how you see the intern in your office. Do you have mad respect for him or her? Do you give that person the meaningful, really important jobs? Most likely not. I'm not saying that we should get rid of interns because I think most of my internships helped me land my first job and were useful hands-on learning environments. I'm talking about equal pay for women doing the same jobs as men. I'm also talking about some digital studios asking producers to cut their rate by almost 50%, and I'm talking about job postings I see for those entry level jobs where you have to be a "rockstar" and do 3 or 4 jobs but get paid as a PA. Ultimately, not paying people for their time and for what they're worth devolves into a culture where people feel like it's OK to take advantage of others. Heck, if the boss didn't value that person enough to pay them what they're worth, why should the next person?! I also believe it's how "casting couches" and bullying behaviors are formed...by men and women. Not seeing that intern or assistant as your equal means seeing them as "lesser than" and therefore, for some people, it's OK, in their mind, to throw food at their assistant because they didn't want cilantro or to threaten their careers, if they don't sleep with them.
As for the guy that gave me that oh so enticing (ahem...cough) offer to sleep with him for a producer gig, he ended up calling me a few years later and asking me for a job! He said he would take anything because he just needed the money. I contemplated, for a second, about asking him to come clean my house, but I didn't. Instead, I told him if I hear of anything, I would let him know. I never spoke to him again and yes, it felt good that it came full circle, and it also felt good to go "higher."
I'd love to change the way Hollywood has been doing business because the old model isn't working and because TIME'S UP, don't you think? Tell me, if you had a company, would you want to pay everyone a living wage and what they're worth? Write it in the comments below. Share this post with everyone you know. Subscribe below, if you'd like to be the first to get my blog posts. Also, if you're interested in learning how to ask for what you're worth or just to find out your net worth, go to the main site and sign up to get a free financial assessment from me.
With so much gratitude and love,