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How Robin Wright Asked for (and Got) the Same Pay as Kevin Spacey on ‘House of Cards’

Topics: Negotiation

For the first three seasons of Netflix’s hit political thriller/soap opera House of Cards, Kevin Spacey earned more than Robin Wright – about $80,000 more per episode, according to The Huffington Post. When the show began, that might have made sense. Spacey, after all, started off as an Oscar winner, whereas Wright had been largely out of the spotlight for several years. Then, however, the Emmy nominations started rolling in, for Wright as well as Spacey. What would Claire Underwood do?


(Photo Credit: By Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

“I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public,'” Wright said at the Rockefeller Foundation on Tuesday. “And they did.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Wright calls the situation the “perfect paradigm,” because the male and female leads on House of Cards are equal in terms of focus. Huffpost notes that in calling for equal pay, Wright joins the ranks of other Hollywood stars, like Jennifer Lawrence, who’ve been drawing attention to the issue. But Wright may be unique in coming to the negotiation table armed with data.

What Do You Have in Common With a Hollywood Star? A Lot

Wright says that her career took a hit after having kids – a situation that will be familiar to any woman who’s tried to balance career and family, either by juggling childcare options or by taking time off to stay home.

“Because I wasn’t working full time, I wasn’t building my salary bracket,” she said. “If you don’t build that … with notoriety and presence, you’re not in the game anymore. You become a B-list actor. You’re not box office material. You don’t hold the value you would have held if you had done four movies a year like Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett did during the time I was raising my kids. Now I’m kind of on a comeback at 50 years old.”

Another thing you have in common with Robin Wright, even if you’ve never won a Golden Globe: you stand a better chance of getting a raise if you ask for it. PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide shows that 74 percent of women who asked for more money received some sort of raise, and 43 percent got the whole amount they requested. That’s pretty much on par with men, who were more likely to get the exact number they asked for (45 percent), but slightly less likely to get a raise, period (72 percent).
In short, if you want to get paid more, it’s worth it to ask, even if you have to do so with a bit more care and planning than a man would.

Just take a page from Robin Wright’s playbook, and come armed with information about how much you’re worth. It’ll be harder for the boss to say no.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever asked for a raise in your field? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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