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Gabrielle Union and Ellen Pompeo get real about women of color in the industry

It’s no secret that the entertainment industry has undergone a major shakeup in recent years. 

The Sony email hacking scandal, the emergence of the #TimesUp movement, in addition to Hollywood being rocked by the sexual assault allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein, have marshaled greater dialogue around the systemic issues that characterize the entertainment industry.

Now, more than ever, there is a greater call for diversity, inclusion and equal pay.

Female actresses have known for a long time that their male co-stars get paid more than them. The extent of this monetary disparity, however, has not always been known to actresses and indeed, the wider public.

In a discussion with, for Net-a-Porter’s third annual “Women In Television” issue, Gina Rodriguez, Ellen Pompeo, Gabrielle Union, and Emma Roberts, spoke candidly about diversity and equal pay in their industries.

In the Net-A-Porter interview, Gabrielle Union described the fear of being a woman of color and not wanting to look the like “ungrateful brown person” in the room when she is granted a job that is already limited to women of color in Hollywood.

The Being Mary Jane star declared,

“It’s f*cking hard because if you do speak up, you run the risk of losing your space.”

Union is not alone in her stance, with Rodriguez nodding agreeably with Union’s comments throughout the interview.

Many actresses, in particularly actresses who are women of color, encounter the obstacle of feeling their stance on the issue of equal pay would be self-indulgent, considering that the entertainment industry and being an actress are incomparable to any other industry or profession. 

Nonetheless, Union emphasized that when it comes to negotiating process in preproduction, she ultimately won’t feel good on set if she feels, “undervalued and my money doesn’t match my level of contribution.”

Union dished out some serious #facts about the industry.

“For people of color, when has an award ever paid off financially later? When it comes time to sell this piece of art, you’re going to have me prancing around the country and the world like a show pony, but all these other people that don’t have to do all the selling work of it are making way more, and I’m not going to get the credit. If it’s a win, it’s not going to be because of me, and if it’s a failure, it’s my face that’s everywhere.”

In the interview, Pompeo called on white actors to demand diversity on set. Pompeo says,

“I think it’s up to all productions to make sure that your crew looks like the world we see. As Caucasian people, it’s our job. It’s our task. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we speak up in every single room we walk into that this is not okay. And that we can all do better. It’s our job because we’ve created the problem.”

Pompeo’s comments throughout the interview could have been an introductory university course, titled, How to be a White Ally: 101.

Pompeo stopped mid-way through the interview with Net-A-Porter to point out the lack of diversity on set for the interview,

“When I show up on set, I would like to see the crew look like the world I walk around in all day. This day has been incredible, and there’s a ton of women in the room. But I don’t see enough color. And I didn’t see enough color when I walked in the room today.”

Pompeo’s 2017 contract renegotiation for the show Grey’s Anatomy made headlines as last year, as the actress demanded better pay, in the wake of her male co-star Patrick Dempsey leaving the series.

The demand ultimately landed Pompeo a $20 million salary for the television program that has been running for 14 years and for which she plays the lead character. Pompeo is now the highest-paid actress in dramatic television.

Though gender inequality and unequal pay are characteristic in all industries, actresses have a powerful, albeit, a unique platform to discuss the issue and be an advocate for equal pay and call out the rampant gender discrimination of the entertainment industry. 

Actresses need to take note from the likes of Union and Pompeo and utilize their celebrity status and influence on public opinion by advancing a dialogue on equal pay and diversity.