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Amy Pascal Candid on Women Knowing Their Worth in Hollywood, Email Hacks + the Futility in Being Nice in the Industry

Amy Pascal Candid on Women Knowing Their Worth in Hollywood, Email Hacks + the Futility in Being Nice in the Industry

Different industry, but I recall when, last fall, Satya Nadella, the Microsoft chief executive officer, said that women don’t need to ask for a raise and should instead put their trust in the system. This was at an event for women in computing held in Phoenix. He was asked to give his advice to women who are uncomfortable requesting a raise.

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” he answered. Not asking for raise, he added, was “good karma” that would help a boss realise the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.

He was, of course, criticized for that response, blasted by some in the press, as well as on social media. His interviewer, Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft director, suggested to him that women do their homework on salary information and then practice how to ask with people they trust.

Nadella would eventually reply, via Twitter, stating that he “was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.” He also would send an email to all Microsoft employees saying he had “answered the question completely wrong”: “I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

So maybe his interviewer, Maria Klawe, was onto something in her response to Nadella’s answer – that women should, essentially, know what they’re worth, and enter salary negotiations armed with the necessary information, which could lead to industry salary parity.

Or does she have it wrong as well?

Sony Chief (well, ex-chief now since she’s on her way out), Amy Pascal (one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood), was asked a somewhat similar question at the “Women in the World” conference in San Francisco, on Wednesday, where she spoke rather candidly about a variety of issues, including those hacked emails that went public, and her thoughts on women in the industry. She was interviewed by journalist Tina Brown.

Pascal suggested that the onus essentially lies on women themselves, and it’s not solely an industry problem: “Here’s the problem: I run a business… People want to work for less money, I pay them less money. I don’t call them up and say, ‘Can I give you some more?’ Because that’s not what you do when you run a business. The truth is, what women have to do is not work for less money. They have to walk away. People shouldn’t be so grateful for jobs. … People should know what they’re worth… Jennifer Lawrence, [who was paid less than her male co-stars in ‘American Hustle’], didn’t ask, so she didn’t get the money.”

Is it really that simple, or is Pascal living in a bubble? Some would argue that it’s much easier said than done, in an industry that’s long been dominated by men, and work for men, as roles for women in general aren’t nearly as plentiful and diverse, so, of course, if an actress gets an opportunity that she rarely is afforded, getting the job, earning a paycheck, and building a resume, might be more important than haggling over salary.  

Some have argued that her comments underscored why many see the Hollywood studio business as a place that is difficult to navigate, or even unfriendly for women and people of color – an industry, especially in the top ranks, that is overwhelmingly male and white.


Pascal did acknowledge the gender pay gap, by adding: “The most important thing that we can do in our business is making movies with female protagonists and female villains, and where the plot of the movie is about them, where actually their actions have consequences in the story.”

Sony Pictures announced last week that Pascal had stepped down as the head of the film studio and would start a new production house at Sony, that will see her act as a producer of projects. Pascal did say that she was, in effect, fired. “I’m 56… It’s not exactly the time that you want to start all over again. But it’s kind of great and I have to and it’s going to be a new adventure for me.” 

Pascal also spoke candidly about the trauma of the hacking attack that preceded her exit. When the extent of the damage was still unraveling and personal information was found to be stolen, Pascal said “everybody was really scared.” 

“But nagging in the back of my mind, and I kept calling them, like, ‘They don’t have our emails, right? Tell me they don’t have our emails.’ ‘No, no no,'” recalled Pascal. “Well, then they did. That was a bad moment.” 

She came under fire, in particular, for emails with producer Scott Rudin in which the two joked about President Barack Obama’s presumed taste in movies. “Everyone understood because we all live in this weird thing together called Hollywood,” said Pascal. “If we all actually were nice, it wouldn’t work.” 

Interesting last words there.

Tina Brown founded the Women in the World conference five years ago to bring together women leaders to share stories and advice. Long considered the top female executive in Hollywood, Pascal was known for, among other things, supporting female filmmakers. Speaking to Brown, she said much still needed to change.

Watch a segment of the interview below:

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