This week, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay especially for Lena Dunham's new weekly newsletter called Lenny. In the letter, Lawrence talked about how she felt when she found out (via the infamous Sony hack) she was paid considerably less than her male co-stars in American Hustle. Here's a quote from the letter that really struck me:
"When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn't get mad at Sony, I got mad at myself." (To see the J. Law's full essay, click here.)
Wow, I thought.
She goes on to ask, "Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn't 'offend' or 'scare' men?"
I thought, "Yes, Jennifer, we are! And it isn't just men we conditioned to be concerned about offending."
Later in the essay, she writes that "Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share."
My response, "Jennifer, you weren't wrong to be concerned about coming across as a brat. Women do have a more limited set of behaviors that we can use when expressing ourselves in the workplace, particularly during negotiations. However, that doesn't mean you have to give up and not say anything at all!"
Is There a Gender Wage Gap?
Honestly, I had mixed emotions after reading her letter.
Part of me was happy to hear her talking openly about the pay inequity because I knew she would bring much-needed attention to this issue. But at the same time, I was disappointed. It seems like we've been talking about the gender wage gap and gender bias in communication for many years, yet still, many woman don't seem to be aware of the very real issues they face. In fact. I have keynote speech that I deliver called, "Tightrope Negotiation: Women Must Ask The Smart Way" and, on occasion, I still get feedback that says something along these lines: "Is Lisa from the 1950s? Doesn't she realize these aren't real issues anymore?" And women—in my experience, one who tend to be younger—say this even though I present recent salary surveys and research that confirms without a doubt exactly what Jennifer Lawrence complains about.
I wish Jennifer Lawrence had attended one of my speeches or listened to my podcast, Smart Talk, where I've talked with women leaders about the gender gap and about the bias in communications. I want every woman, including Jennifer Lawrence to know this: Yes, gender bias is very real and, yes, there still is a gender wage gap! However, that doesn't mean the only solution is to just give up. It is possible to ask for what you deserve in a way that doesn't make you come across as a brat (or worse).
In fact, Jennifer Lawrence, I am offering you a gift—a gift of my personal coaching. I want to help you learn to negotiate in a way that helps you get what you want. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested.
If you've ever wondered why I did the first year of Smart Talk, it's exactly for this reason. I don't want what happened J. Law to happen to any young woman. Period.
This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence. If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview, and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business.