The world’s highest paid TV actors: take a wild guess about gender balance

Big Bang Theory cast. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Big Bang Theory cast.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

There’s a list out today of the world’s 15 highest paid tv actors.

Big Bang Theory actors are the world’s highest paid television stars in 2015

Before you take a look at the list, take a really wild, out there guess about the gender balance in that list. 50:50 male female?

Knowing what you do already about pay equity and gender pay gaps, perhaps you’ll go for something a little more skewed in favour of men. 75:25 male female? Maybe even 80:20?

Well, thank you for playing.  Those of you who guessed 100:0 are right.

1. Jim Parsons – $US29 million – male

2. Johnny Galecki – $US27 million – male

3. Mark Harmon – $US20 million – male

4. Simon Helberg – $US20 million – male

5. Kunal Nayyar – $US20 million – male

6. Ashton Kutcher – $US20 million – male

7. Jon Cryer – $US15 million – male

8. Ray Romano – $US15 million – male

9. Patrick Dempsey – $US12 million – male

10. Simon Baker – $US12 million – male

11. Ty Burrell – $US11.5 million – male

12. Jesse Tyler Ferguson – $US11 million – male

13. Ed O’Neill – $US10.5 million – male

14. Eric Stonestreet – $US10.5 million – male

15. Kevin Spacey – $US9.5 million – male

All four main male characters from Big Bang Theory are on the list, but not Kaley Cuoco.

I’m guessing that may be a problem with the way the list was constructed, because reports have said that Ms Cuoco is paid over $1million an episode, like her male co-stars.

But that’s the other problem with the list. If it’s inaccurate, then it’s helping to reinforce the idea that women are worth less than men.

Grump grump grump.

More on on the pesky paygap

A fascinating graph, and dicussion, about the pay gap between men and women.

The jobs with the biggest and smallest pay gaps between men and women

It’s US data, so it won’t translate exactly to New Zealand, but I’m sure that the overall pattern is about right.

The jobs with the biggest pay gaps?

  • Insurance sales agents
  • Retail sales
  • Sales and related workers
  • Real estate brokers and agents
  • Personal finance advisors
  • Education administrators
  • Physicians and surgeons
  • General and operations managers
  • Marketing and sales managers
  • Stock brokers
  • Inspectors etc. at production lines

And the jobs with the smallest pay gaps are:

  • Security guards
  • Warehouse stock clerks
  • Paralegals and legal assistants
  • Data entry
  • Cafeteria workers, bussers, etc
  • Social workers
  • Office clerks
  • Buyers for wholesale and retail
  • Pharmacists
  • Counselors
  • Health technicians

Lam Thuy Vo, who compiled the graph, notes that:

The jobs where the gap is biggest pay more, on average, than the jobs where the gap is lowest.

I think that its interesting to think about which jobs are marked male, and which jobs are marked female. My estimate is that about 10 of the 11 jobs with the biggest pay gaps are marked male, and about 8 of the 11 jobs with the smallest pay gaps are marked female. YMMV on this, of course. I’ve said before, tongue in cheek, sort of, that one way to even up the gender pay gap is for more men to take on “women’s” jobs. The converse of that is that more women can attempt to enter “men’s” jobs. But what this graph shows is that even when women move into those higher paid roles, they still can’t get rid of the gap between their pay, and men’s pay.

And no, it’s not just because women take time out for child bearing and rearing. As the original article says:

Part of the gap in pay is driven by choices, even within single job categories. Among physicians, for example, women are more likely than men to choose lower-paid specialties (though this does not explain all of the pay gap among doctors).

And among all workers, women are more likely than men to take a significant time off from work to raise children, and they tend to be re-hired at lower wages than their counterparts who remained in the workforce.

But not all of the difference be explained by choices such as these.

Pay equity

I have an article about the pay gap in the Dominion Post this morning.

Isn’t it time to fix the pay gap?

Instead of thinking what might be the best way to assess and reward work, we assume that the way that work is structured and paid right now is the way that work ought to be structured and paid. The real solution to the pay equity gap is not to make women behave like men, or men to behave like women, but to engage in a serious discussion about better ways of working, and better ways of understanding and valuing all work.

This might be a more congenial environment for commenting than Stuff, where I predict that there will be calls for me to be sacked, and complaints about what I’m teaching my students.

So why is it that women are the ones doing it wrong?

Cross posted

Deborah Coddington alternately infuriates me and delights me as a columnist. ‘Alternately’ is probably overstating it, but I cheered a couple of weeks back when I read this:

I’m still proud that in 1986, when Petricevic was filthy rich, I threw him out of my restaurant for being vile to waiting staff.

Source: Fiercely rich give wealthy hard workers a bad name

I was less heartened to read this:

Is there a gender pay gap in this country for people doing the same job? It seems so, according to research from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs – up to 17 per cent less than men for graduates with equivalent degrees. But the causes are complex and – women won’t want to hear this – it’s largely our fault.

To generalise, we just don’t care enough. It seems we’re not as pushy as men when it comes to negotiating pay rises. We also take years out of our careers to have children and therefore miss out on promotion.

Source: How about sticking up for yourselves… girls?

I see two problems with what Deborah Coddington is saying here. To be fair, it’s not just Ms Coddington who makes points like these. They’re common enough among those who oppose any work being done to redress pay inequity. First, women take too much time out, and second, it’s their own fault anyway because they’re not pushy enough.

The “too much time out” line is a little hard to run when the pay inequity gap starts to show up as soon as a woman graduates. There’s clearly something going on here that isn’t to do with women staying at home with babies and children.

Perhaps the ‘too much time out’ argument might have something in it 15 or 20 years down the track, when the children have gotten through to the upper years of secondary school, or headed off to start living away from family home, and the primary caregiver can expand her (sometimes his) work hours a little. That’s right. Not get a job in the first place, but expand her work hours. Most primary caregivers manage to fit in some part time work, as well as running the family. But by then, she will have fallen behind her colleagues who have been working full time for all those years, so she just doesn’t have the experience to command a higher wage.

Really? Seems to me that a woman who is working part time is staying up to date with her field, is learning how to manage workplace politics, is accumulating the experience and wisdom that merit the same salary as the people who have been there all the time. She will have had all the quality of experience needed, even if not the mind numbing quantity racked up by those who have spent every day possible at the office. Mutatis mutandis for men who stay at home.

Maybe what we need to examine is not the assumption that taking time out necessarily means that you get paid less, but the other assumption, that long term attendance in a job necessarily means that you deserve a higher salary. While we’re at it, we could also examine that assumption that time spent rearing children and running a house is a great empty void from which a person learns nothing. Speaking for myself, I have acquired some fairly polished skills in time and project management, from running a household and managing logistics for my three children, all while on a budget that at times has been very tight indeed.

We might also need to take a look at the gendered nature of childcare, and have a careful think about why it is usually women who take time out. I’ve heard plenty of people suggest that when it comes to deciding who will stay at home with the babies, the person who earns the least will. But funnily enough, for unknown reasons (I’m being sarcastic here), that person turns out to be the woman (in a run-of-the-mill heterosexual pairing, that is), and once she takes time out, her salary slips even more, so really, it just makes sense for her to continue to be the one out of the workforce and whaddyaknow, when the next baby arrives it makes even more sense and slip, slop, slide all the way down to the bottom of the income heap again.

The ‘too much time out’ argument rests on too many unexamined assumptions. So perhaps the problem is that women just aren’t aggressive enough when it comes to matching male salaries. If only they would demand as much as their male peers, all would be well.

There’s an unexamined assumption behind this one too, that the way that men do things is necessarily the best way. Perhaps it’s not the case that women are undervalued because they are not pushy enough. Perhaps what’s really happening is that men are getting overpaid, and overvalued, because they are too pushy, inflating their demands beyond the bounds of their competence. Perhaps what is needed is not so much an increase in women’s wages, as a decrease in men’s. And perhaps we need employers who are prepared to withstand the importunate demands made by those with an exaggerated sense of their worth. Funnily enough, employers who were prepared to do that might also be prepared to give more credence to the worth of women.

Whatever the reasons for the pay gap between men and women, to simply dismiss it as women’s fault because they take time out, and they don’t ask for enough, puts the blame, or the identification of a cause, on individual women, when it seems that there is probably something systemic going on. That’s the only way to explain the gap in graduates’ wages. But it’s much easier to blame individuals. If each person’s situation is her own fault, then it’s up to each individual person to fix it for herself. And that is surely much easier and cheaper for employers and government to deal with.

Just to round this post off, check out this story from the Independent: Women forced out of jobs by rising cost of childcare

You’ll be noticing who is being forced out of jobs?