Bradley Cooper Emerges as Unlikely Gender Pay Gap Hero

He vows to negotiate salaries alongside female co-stars.

The gender pay gap has been a hot topic in all sectors of the business world recently. Politicians like President Obama and Hillary Clinton will be quick to tell you that women get paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to men for doing the same jobs — but too often the debate gets labeled as a partisan issue, relegating it to hot-headed debates on cable TV news.

But there is one unlikely gender pay gap hero who just might be able to move the needle: Bradley Cooper. In the wake of a revelation that Jennifer Lawrence got paid millions less than her three male co-stars in American Hustle, Cooper told Reuters that he’ll now team up with female co-stars to negotiate salaries before production.

“I don’t know where it’s changing otherwise but that’s something that I could do,” Cooper said. “Usually you don’t talk about the financial stuff, you have people. But you know what? It’s time to start doing that.”

He also told Entertainment Tonight: “There’s a double standard in the whole world, yeah, for sure. This is just one aspect. Anytime there’s a place where a voice can come out and be outspoken — something Sienna (Miller) did, or Jennifer — that’s great. … I think it is making a difference.”

Lawrence found out about her comparative pay for American Hustle in the wake of the Sony email hacks and made an appeal for equal pay in an essay titled: “Why Do I Make Less Than My Co-Stars” that was published in Lena Dunham‘s Lenny newsletter.

“If I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled,’ ” she wrote.

Think the gender pay gap is a myth? Consider these numbers from the U.S. Dept. of Labor published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Full-time male workers earned a median weekly salary of $889 in the third quarter,— a 2.2 percent increase from a year earlier. Full-time female workers earned $721, up 0.8 percent from a year earlier. That’s the “third straight quarter that the increase in male earnings was at least double that of female workers,” the WSJ reported. That means full-time working women made 81.1 cents for every dollar a man earned from July through September.

Will attention from Hollywood help move the needle on the gender pay gap across all industries? That remains to be seen, but the fact that it’s making headlines from people other than politicians is a good start. Will Lawrence empower more women to step up and ask for their fair share without worrying about appearing difficult or spoiled? Very possible.

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