[Updated] Mind the Gap: the Jennifer Lawrence Essay Asks if Your Pay Check is Fair, Bradley Cooper Answers “No, Let Me Help”

But does that help or hurt? Rachel Zuckerman looks into it


Last week, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay for Lenny Letter that bluntly and pointedly called Hollywood out on its sexism and its antiquated habit of paying female actors woefully less than their male counterparts. In response to it, Leandra and Amelia published a text message conversation (featured below) that begged the question: what now?

Though Lawrence wasn’t the first person to make a point about the wage gap, her message was delivered with the kind of inspiring grit and rigor that makes you want to get involved.

The media’s response was swift and predictable, but would the moment produce an action element?

Cue Bradley Cooper.

Faster than you can say, “I volunteer as tribute,” Bradley Cooper announced that he would join his female co-stars at the negotiating table so that they’d know how much he’s getting paid before they ink their own deals.

Initially, my reaction was “You go Bradley Cooper!” Leandra says her underwear practically came undone when she realized the most attractive man in America is also a feminist. But what quickly and almost simultaneously followed, for me at least, was this feeling that his pledge maintained an element of knight-in-shining-armor-comes-to-rescue-the-princess. Is the problem really being solved because someone who allegedly wields more power based on his gender is going to join you at the negotiating table?

I know it’s not that simple and it’s definitely commendable that Cooper would use his status to enact change where he can, but I feel a little conflicted.

Jennifer Lawrence’s piece exuded bad-ass, no-holds-barred independence. We all need help in doing something for the first time, but I’m feeling like this is a “teach a person to fish” type of thing.

Salary transparency needs to be the status quo, but so too does making sure young women (really, all women) have the necessary skills to not only recognize and speak up when they are being paid less for equal work but to also broach the question of asking for a raise.

I feel incredibly lucky to have benefited and continue to benefit from amazing female mentors who have helped me learn how to “lean in.” But it shouldn’t come down to luck.

With all the things we learn in school under the guise of life skills (we’re literally taught how to boil water), is it crazy to think that “How to Talk to Your Boss 101” should be incorporated somewhere along the way?

Celebrity endorsed social change is great and gives a powerful springboard to vital yet overlooked issues. But we’re all responsible for action.

If nothing else, don’t forget, your vote speaks loudly, and I hear there’s a pretty big election coming up…

Rachel Zuckerman



Collage by Krista Anna Lewis


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  • Andrea Raymer

    i totally agree on the how to sentiment! I find myself not know how to stand up for myself in situations where I feel disrespected and not just be a doormat. I just don’t know how do do it in a way that will make people take me seriously. I feel like I am either too emotional and “childish” or I am too assertive and “rude”. It feels like I just can’t win and the only people I know that have been able to provide me with answers are men who don’t usually have the same types of problems as I do when it comes to be taken seriously. All of my female peers are just as confused as I am.

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    • Kelsey Moody

      If you are talking salary with a boss or as a new hire, they already take you seriously — they want to pay you for your work! You are a commodity so make sure they know that. When negotiating up, it helps to be prepared. Don’t just ask for more money, come in with reasons WHY you deserve more money. This is about your VALUE for the company: what can you deliver on and what that’s worth. Knowing your limitations is helpful, don’t promise a boss something you cannot do, obviously. But this I find is the issue (with myself and female peers), is that women aren’t convinced of their own worth. Whether it is a self esteem issue, not wanting to appear to be “bragging”, being taught to be modest or quiet– this is all ingrained in our subconscious somewhere so we just assume we need to take a starting salary at face-value, and be grateful. Entry level jobs are tough because you are just happy to be working, but do not forget that you are sitting in that chair at that company for a reason! Believe that you can do the job at hand and confidently tell the boss across from you that you deserve to get paid like it.

      I also find having to pee when having these conversation helps…something about being anxious and needing to move the conversation along or else you’ll wet yourself gets the ball rolling faster…..jk but not

      • Andrea Raymer

        I will keep this in mind and make sure I am extremely hydrated when having difficult conversations.

        I totally agree with the women not being convinced of their own worth statement. I have two friends who are both young photographers, one is a man and one is a women, they are similar ages but the girl has way more experience and the guy is just starting out. She gets nervous every single shoot despite the fact that she has been doing it for years. He on the other hand is perfectly confident before his shoots even though he has only been on set a handful of times. That was the first time I really noticed how unconvinced young women are of their worth. We could be experts in something and still be convinced we are wrong. It is basically like imposter syndrome is engrained into the female psyche.

        • june2

          I think men don’t have their competency challenged, allowing them to come to projects with total confidence, whereas the challenging the competency of women is an old pattern of the toxic patriarchy. Nothing like planting the seed of doubt in fertile ground – puns yea!

  • pm.

    This is interesting not only for gender-gap issues but also SES wage-gap issues in general. The rhetoric is definitely popping up everywhere: to get a “fair” shake, you have to step up and fight for it. I find it somewhat distressing if/that’s the case – ideally we’re compensated fairly based on our merits. But more and more I guess we’re all realizing that capitalism isn’t working that way.

    Do we think that capitalism is inherently adversarial? (do you get my meaning?)

  • Quinn Halman

    My view is that, touching on what Amelia said, a lot of these efforts and awareness raising platforms stem from young people. Which is good, but not for right now. From my perception, most companies older than 20 or even 15 years old is run in the traditional sense of this is the office, this is your desk; not here is a beanbag and that’s where we play ping pong. I’m not saying traditional businesses do not pay their women less than men but my point here is, there is a separation of coworkers and friends. Much like in school when we are told not to share our grades, we are taught it is impolite to ask what other people make. Which is fair! So, it already takes a certain type of nerve to ask someone else’s income but there is additionally the intimidation factor of asking for more. Maybe it is not as scary as I think it will be but part of the gender issue of this issue, is that women are indirectly taught not to be firm because of the labels that will result from those actions.

  • CM

    I think the hardest thing is how do you know you’re not being paid the same as your male counterparts? I have no problem asking for a raise and standing up for myself and equal pay, but I can’t ask if I don’t know there’s a difference. I also don’t trust HR cause they know everyone’s salaries, so if there is a wage gap, they’re perpetuating it.

    • Kelsey Moody

      RIGHT! Like there’s no “Sony Leak/Hack” in the normal world to see if my male counterpart is getting paid more than me. People care about the celebrity salaries bc they are celebrities….but what about the little punk male analyst that was just hired vs my salary for 2 years in the same role?

  • Kelsey O’Donnell

    I agree that more “how tos” would be great, and more with analytical advise, not just conclusory advice lke “show them how you add value!”. As a boss, Leandra, I’d love to hear how you determine an employee’s value, what makes you want to give them a raise and bonus, and any advice you might have for the rest of us.

  • Lindsay

    yes, yes, yes. Even though I know (a.k.a. I read “Lean In”) I need to be the one asking for a raise, your boss doesn’t just give that to you (unless you work for Leandra) – I made the assumption that with my type of work in grant-funded research, budgets are rigid and money is limited, so there isn’t much room for raises. I’ve been working for 4yrs and have only just come to the realization that I was wrong – I can and should ask for the raise I deserve.

    So Sheryl please write the sequel “Lean In: a How To Guide for Getting the $$ You Deserve”

  • Katie Uhlmann

    Thank you for posting an intelligent text conversation between two women!

  • cherypie160

    ladies…. these “how to” articles you speak of already exist…. i highly recommend “what color is your parachute,” specifically the chapter on salary negotiation. linkedin, glassdoor, etc also have “how to” articles, just use the right keyword search.

  • Adardame

    I always wait for someone to notice how well I’m doing and reward me for it. I know it doesn’t work that way, most people are too wrapped up in themselves to watch how other people are doing, but I keep waiting. I’m theoretically doing the voluntary in-company leaning new things training right now. That might not be going so well, come to think of it.

  • Anna

    i love this “Don’t lean out!”
    i love this above “article” so much..! been a daily manrepeller reader since i saw you linked on Where Did U Get That with your bow ballerina shoes : )

  • kay

    i thought jennifer lawrence’s article brought up two important and related points, one of which is way tougher to resolve for the individual woman- she was saying a) she didn’t fight for her salary the way her male colleagues did, partly because b) her experience expressing herself in same language and tone that men do (and btw women are told to do to “lean in”) has not been respected or received the same way as when men express the same things in the same way. A woman can learn and practice how to lean in stuff all day long, but if the people she is expressing herself to literally just are not prepared to hear assertiveness, ambition, or in some cases (like Jennifer Lawrence brought up) even an opinion from a woman without it being couched in some sort of apology, then all the how-to advice doesn’t get the job done. Until the image of an unapologetic woman is normalized, the how-to advice we need is how to educate bosses and investors on the fly about their ingrained prejudice. And when that fails, how to make end-runs around people who don’t want to hear ambition from a woman.

  • This was very interesting. I was actually reading the Guardian article on this whole situation. What intrigued me was the number of people commenting on the general line of ‘what a bitch – she gets paid millions and is still complaining’. So I am seriously all for teachers and doctors being the highest paid professions but when you are comparing people in a particular profession and you see the women being underpaid, its something to discuss. On the flip side, since its j Law (sorry!), the main issue gets distracted because she is earning millions. Its so frustrating!


  • Jen

    I was wondering how long it’d take to get to the line, this is getting weird, as I’m in charge of your salary. Love the way you guys play the tension!

  • C

    I’m a teacher. My paycheck will NEVER be fair! 🙂

  • Elke V.

    Re: Bradley Cooper. I think it depends on how it was meant. I don’t see it as an unconsciously condescending white knight-move. More as a stance of solidarity. If I were to be harassed in the street by some idiot, and a guy would help me out, I wouldn’t be all ‘I can defend myself thankyouverymuch’, I’d be more like ‘Gee, thanks for giving a shit’. Even if you can defend yourself, it’s still nice to know people got your back. It depends on context, obviously. If he were to go into a meeting with Jennifer Lawrence and the film moguls and act all ‘Let daddy do the talking, honey’, that obviously wouldn’t be okay. But to me it read more like he wanted all cards on the table. Transparancy and solidarity. Certainly worthy of a panties-drop.

  • I love you guys so much: you’re like transatlantic big sisters to me. I really like the idea of hearing about how to be a woman of the independent financial world via you guys, sorry GIRLS, because I trust you. For all that the motto at my all-girls school was “we breed strong, independent women,” there weren’t no classes on how to balance a chequebook…

  • tunie

    “Is the problem really being solved because someone who allegedly wields
    more power based on his gender is going to join you at the negotiating

    For Goddess’s sake, let him set an example to other men of standing up for fairness! And we should humbly accept, just as we expect all those we help to accept our offerings.

    Unfortunately PLENTY of women and girls will still need to figure out
    how to stand up for themselves without any help at all from the men or
    women around them, so I say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!

    • tunie

      Wish I could edit my comment but I meant to lead with, “WHAT a good question this is…”!. Even if I think the answer is obvious, it IS a delicate point.

  • tunie

    “I just think in addition to ‘we should’ essays we need ‘how to’s’ so we CAN”

    TRUTH. On that note, I’d love to see a column here that regularly details just exactly HOW someone like Angela Ahrendts, for example, is a ‘fucking genius business woman”… including their tactics on salary negotiations and how much they rely upon presumably male bosses for standing up for her on that front. Thanks!

  • One of the criticisms of Lean In feminism is whether in focusing on the individual responsibility of each woman to lean in and sit at the table, are we letting the male dominated industry off the hook? People who benefit from whatever privilege need to participate in dismantling it from the inside. As much as women leaning in and learning skills to navigate these spaces is important, men also need to play a role in changing organizational cultures to be more friendly to women.

    So, on Bradley Cooper and “Knight in Shining Armor”ness, I think the question is: will Bradley Cooper’s decision lead to a change in the culture of Hollywood– and more transparency in wage discussions? Or is it just going to be a “yayy Bradley he’s so hot and feminist” while everything else stays the same? That’s what makes the difference in my book: knight in shining armor-ness is about benefitting personally from taking a stance without actually acting to change the culture.

  • Bianca Naumovici

    I believe that Bradley Cooper is in no way condescending or being a “white knight” coming up to save the damsels. He is saying: “I’ll make my salary know to the female co-stars before they sign, so that they don’t cave in to pressure and take a lesser deal.” He’s not coming in the room, all sweaty, shouting “Stop the signing of the contract!!!” He’s just disclosing, privately, to his co-stars, the figure. I think this shows transparency. I also think that he is doing the only thing he can actually do, the only thing he has power over. He’s taking the only action he can against this discrimination. Let’s not tear the eyes out of the (few) men who have the decency to not roll them, to accept there is indeed a problem and who take some sort of action.

    • Terra Dactyl

      Oh Lordy, please let there be just one contract signing in my life interrupted by a sweaty, frantic Bradley Cooper just as I’m about to be diddled out of an extra million.

  • Sarah Stephens

    Sheryl Sandberg discussed the value of men leaning in, and I believe that is what Bradley Cooper is trying to do. We should let him and any other man that wishes to support closing the wage gap. A very important man in my life helped me learn how to negotiate a salary and benefit package, and I’m very grateful. That being said, I should have learned about this much earlier, as in maybe business school.

  • Bella Charlwood

    This is so accurate! I feel like if anything, school has made me less assertive. Especially since I went to a coed school that unconsciously encouraged boys sport more and aided stereotypes in typical gender roles. I never felt as if being assertive and taking charge was a good thing as it was so often dismissed as rude, bossy, and annoying.

  • Miranda Babbitt

    I think the solution is this: women continue being badasses, climbing the ranks and breaking that glass ceiling with a vengeance now that we all see through it, and start making the change, doing the doing, for equal wages. It’s just like they said, the answer seems kind of obvious?! Just, pay us equally?! CAMAN! If the men won’t do it, we will.

  • El
  • Jacquie G

    This makes me feel like youre actually going to get somewhere. (You being the next generation…) It’s a terrible situation to be in. My last nightmare was at a Fortune 100 Company. I was Headhunted to go there from a small, progressive firm I was very happy at. I wasn’t looking to move, the commute was long & I’d been promoted twice in a year where I was. I told the employment firm I wouldn’t even consider the INTERVIEW without a guaratee of $X salary because I was *finally* in a position where I was learning my worth.
    I sail through the interviews & am offered the job – at $15k LESS than I was expecting. So I declined & explained why. Which I guess made me more “desirable” ’cause eventually they came back & offered what I expected from the start. As it turns out, that was the very top of my pay grade. So there was 0 room for merit raises – I was essentially MAXED OUT! And even though I’d made my position clear BEFORE I started the whole process, my boss – who NEVER learned her own worth & I’m sure to this day is still a “yes” person – always seemed to resent the HELL out of me for standing up for myself! So I felt as though she went out of her way to,try to hold me back in this weird, passive aggressive atmosphere. It was a very strange, double edged sword that I had NOT fully anticipated.
    A “what to expect next” primer would have been a wonderful thing.