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Dear Kate Winslet, We Need to Talk (About Pay)


Normally, I’m the first in line to join the Kate Winslet Fangirl Club. Between her undeniable acting talent, and her frank discussions about subjects like body image and the way Hollywood treats women as they age, she really seems like a cool, confident, smart lady. But in a recent interview with the BBC, she called the public conversation around the gender pay gap “vulgar.”


(Photo Credit: Maggie Jumps, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kate, we need to talk.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

First, let’s be clear — Ms. Winslet did not say that the gender pay gap itself doesn’t exist, or that talking about the pay inequity as a concept should be taboo. Rather, she seemed to imply that she just can’t see herself talking about her salary in public. Her exact words were:

“I’m having such a problem with these conversations … I understand why they are coming up but maybe it’s a British thing. I don’t like talking about money; it’s a bit vulgar isn’t it?”

It seems that what she is saying is that she is uncomfortable talking about money in general, and shies away from the idea of publicly disclosing her compensation information. This isn’t just “a British thing.” Most people don’t enjoy talking about money, even with close friends. While we applaud people like Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Scarlett Johansson for talking about their experiences with pay inequity, I don’t see many of us grabbing a microphone to talk about our own salaries, or to ask co-workers or friends exactly how much they earn. It’s just … weird.

Unfortunately, this general discomfort with the idea of talking about pay is a cause of persistent pay inequity. We know that women are far less likely to negotiate than men in general, and when PayScale asked people why they don’t negotiate, 37 percent of women said that it was because they were uncomfortable talking about pay. As a result, we get this vicious cycle:

vicious cycle 

This is the real problem with Kate Winslet’s comments. Yes, talking about money can be uncomfortable, especially for women, who are generally expected to be altruistic and passive. But if we don’t start having these difficult conversations, nothing will ever change. We can’t rely on karma to get the salary and job titles that we work so hard for. The truth is, every time another woman advocates for herself in the workplace, she makes it a tiny bit easier for every other woman to do the same.

This doesn’t mean you have to post a picture of your paycheck on Instagram. Jennifer Lawrence absolutely deserves kudos for her beautifully written essay about not being paid as much as male costars, but you can make a difference by simply using sites like PayScale to figure out how much you should be earning and asking for the salary you deserve. Instead of scheduling a press conference, make sure that there aren’t pay gaps between men and women who report to you. And don’t judge or condemn women who negotiate, or talk about their pay and struggles with equality in the workplace — be an ally and an advocate. Anybody (of any gender) can do that.

So Kate, I totally understand that you aren’t comfortable talking about money. But sometimes, having a conversation about an uncomfortable subject is the only way to fix the problem.

It’s time to talk.

Tell Us More

Want to find out what else you can do to help close the gender pay gap? Check out PayScale’s Inside the Gender Pay Gap report. Then talk to us about salary transparency on Twitter or in the comments below.

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You won’t know exactly what she means until you ask her. No need to assume. You know what they say about that. Since I don’t know exactly what she means either, I will keep my speculation to a minimum. She followed up her comment stating that she feels fortunate for her situation in life. So, what I think she means is that people that are super-wealthy should not publicly complain about being super-wealthy; when there are people in this country… Read more »

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