Benedict Cumberbatch Is Putting His Salary on the Line to Close the Wage Gap

Photo: Flickr/Honeyfitz

The gender wage gap infuriatingly means that regardless of a woman’s credentials—like how many educational degrees she may have—and her performance at work, she’s still, almost certainly, paid less than a man doing the same job. Not even celebrities are exempt from this sexist social structure, which has become more and more apparent in the movie industry lately—but one male actor is making a real stride in supporting his fellow colleagues.

Benedict Cumberbatch recently said he would refuse roles unless his female co-stars are paid equally.

In the past few months, it’s come to light that Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth in the first two seasons of The Crown, a show about the royal, has been paid less than her male co-star. Additionally, Michelle Williams was paid just 1 percent of the re-shooting fee her male co-star, Mark Wahlberg, earned for a 2017 movie; in that case, Wahlberg donated his $1.5 million profit to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. And now Benedict Cumberbatch is taking a stand against this patriarchal injustice: In a recent interview with Radio Times, the actor said he would refuse roles unless his female co-stars are paid equally.

Cumberbatch advised that other male actors should adopt a similar position when accepting movie roles. “Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say, ‘If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.’”

Cumberbatch may be the latest to implement this plan, but the idea of an inclusion rider—which actors can add to their contracts to demand a certain level of diversity in a film’s team—has been around for some time now and was brought to popular consciousness as a result of Frances McDormand’s Oscar acceptance speech earlier this year.

Women have to stand up for themselves to fight for equal rights—but in an ideal world, men would join the fight to defend their peers. Hopefully, we’ll start to see more men taking real action, like Cumberbatch says he is doing, to address sexism across industries and occupations.

Reese Witherspoon and the entire country of Iceland have also found ways to bring an end to the pay gap.