What the Wonder Woman vs. Superman salary debate teaches us about the gender pipeline problem

Regina Moran
By , - Responsible Business

From modern-day heroine to cultural icon for feminism, Wonder Woman has represented a lot of things to many people over the years.

Indeed, the latest franchise from Warner Bros.’ DC films which features the legendary heroine addresses what has long been a prominent problem in Hollywood: a lack of women in lead roles.

Despite this, with the introduction of Katniss from the Hunger Games trilogy, Alicia Florrick from the Good Wife series and most recently the appointment of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who to our screens, we’re definitely making great strides in providing suitable female role models to young girls and women.

But all of this positivity and praise around a female superhero lead has been overshadowed by a very sensitive topic of conversation: the gender pay gap.

Most recently, a misguided tweet comparing Gal Gadot’s $300,000 “Wonder Woman” pay check to her “Man of Steel” counterpart Henry Cavill’s whopping $14 million pay package spiralled out of control.

At first glance it’s undeniable to say we didn’t all feel a burning outrage at this monumental and offensive salary gap. But what many chose to overlook was that Gal’s initial salary doesn’t include box office performance bonuses, which is the reason for the significant increase of Henry Cavill’s pay check.

So what does this really mean for gender equality?

In fact, it arguably has nothing to do with the gender wage gap. Instead, it points towards a simple truth: discussions around the gender pay gap can often be misrepresented.

Whilst it’s, of course, imperative that organisations adequately address this long-standing and ongoing issue, it’s vital we don’t forget that differences in pay are often part of a wider context, as businesses fail to create environments that support women in the long-term.

More than a pay problem – supporting women at work

With businesses struggling to address the low number of women in more senior-level positions, one major factor preventing gender equality is the pipeline problem.

To counteract this, more organisations should be driving recruitment of women at a graduate and apprentice level.

However, whilst this is a great starting point, organisations need to be aware of and eliminate any subliminal bias in hiring, promotions and pay rises.

Often people don’t realise they have them, which is why we need to be making more effort in recruitment, promotion, selecting people for projects, and in all parts of the business, to make sure it’s fair and equitable.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Are organisations properly fostering an environment in which people are allowed to speak out or are encouraged to be confident in themselves?

Whilst it’s one thing to have the right proportion, we need to be asking whether there is a culture of inclusion, and women’s networks are just one example of this.

These ensure women receive the proper support and advice they need, no matter what their level or position. But this is not possible without the senior team championing women within their organisation and encouraging senior women to act as mentors and role models.

In order to ensure we’re seeing more women in those higher paid roles, its clear organisations across all industries need to be supporting and fostering female talent early on and throughout their careers, helping them move up the ladder.

After all, with 70% of women aged 16 to 64 in work, organisations that fail to foster a whole group of talent properly in the workforces will prevent the UK from seeing a prosperous economy.

 

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