‘Big Little Lies’ Helped Close HBO’s Gender Wage Gap

During the past few years, women in Hollywood have become more vocal about their treatment in the workplace. One of the many issues they’re pushing back on is the gender pay gap. It’s a real-world issue that affects not only women in entertainment, but women in all industries of the working world.

Last year, it was reported the actresses of Big Little Lies received hefty pay raises from HBO, but those actions also led to the network reevaluating pay disparities across the board. Casey Bloys, president of HBO, said that the raises were well-earned given all the awards and high ratings the show received for its first season, but he credits the salary conversations surrounding the cast of Big Little Lies with changing how they do business.

Big Little Lies Cast
‘Big Little Lies’ Cast | Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

How the women of ‘Big Little Lies’ got pay bumps and moved HBO to evolve

Bloys and industry insiders admit that negotiations are a lot more flexible when a show is entering its second or third season, and that works to the advantage of a series’ actors. In this case, Reese Witherspoon was very active in not only advocating for a pay increase for herself and her castmates, but also women in general.

She’s a leader in the Time’s Up movement, and at the time when salary talks were in motion for the show last year, Witherspoon inked a massive deal with Apple. That included $1 million per episode, a backend deal, and executive producing credits, giving her some additional clout going into negotiations with HBO. But Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter that Witherspoon’s conversations with them about Time’s Up and pay equality spurred the raises for her and everyone else at HBO.

He stated that the network examined all of its shows and the pay for women, voluntarily making increases where there was gender pay disparity, and pledging to fix such problems moving forward. He was adamant that people get paid what they deserve.

“One of the things that’s come out of thinking about the movement and some conversations with Reese, who’s really at the forefront, is something we’ve done recently. We’ve proactively gone through all of our shows — in fact, we just finished our process where we went through and made sure that there were no inappropriate disparities in pay; and where there were, if we found any, we corrected it going forward. And that’s is a direct result of the Time’s Up movement.”

All the other ladies in the BLL cast—Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Zöe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley are equally outspoken about wage equality, and all received considerable increases in their salaries moving into season two. It’s rumored that Witherspoon and Kidman receive $1-1.5 million per episode this season while for season one, they earned between $250,000 and $350,000 an episode. Kravitz is said to be making $3 million total for season two, a significant rise from her season one total of $380,000. Woodley, Dern, and Streep are also said to be happy with what they are earning this season.

Each actress works to promote pay parity

Laura Dern recently spoke with Bustle about the shifts in wage equality, and she credits the changes to women being more comfortable with talking to each other and speaking up in the workplace. Additionally, she sees the power in recognizing that each woman’s struggle may be different:

“And the reason there has been such a massive change is women are talking to each other, women are transparent with each other about their experience, about they make, about what their working conditions are. It’s a 20 percent difference in terms of the gender pay gap. But those numbers do not include people of color.”

She added that she and her BLL costars use their group text to connect and to talk about issues like pay equality. They share, support, and inform one another so they can be a part of the larger fight for every woman, regardless of background or industry.

When news of the Big Little Lies actresses’ salary increases first hit, it had everyone buzzing about how female-led shows warranted equal pay and further, how women felt empowered to speak up for themselves in entertainment and other industries. HBO has changed its practices heading into the future, so don’t be surprised if other networks are compelled to do the same.