Last week, those with the double X chromosome celebrated International Women’s Day. We celebrated the powerful women of the world. We celebrated the #MeToo movement. We celebrated the hopeful transition toward workplace and financial equality.
So why shouldn’t television celebrate International Women’s Day by naming a few ladies who are as rich and powerful and successful as men and who maintain the extreme monetary and power discrepancy that exists in the industry.
That’s right. Television – like most industries – is a world of haves and have nots. Many actors barely make enough to keep their health insurance. (It requires a minimum amount of industry employment each year.) And the majority of them out there require a second “real” job to pay their day-to-day bills.
Writers don’t earn the same money the actors and producers do when their show goes into syndication. And the technical crew tends to be somewhat nomadic, going from job to job as the shows succeed or are cancelled.
But the Sandra Ohs, Shonda Rhimes, and Reese Witherspoons are still celebrated as beacons of what is possible whenever International Women’s Day rolls around. They’re superstars of Hollywood who have certainly earned a level of laud and honour. It’s impressive what they have accomplished.
Yet in some ways, their very existence makes it less possible for other women within the industry to reach that same lofty echelon. Which makes the situation no different from when men hold those same positions of power.
While you ponder that, consider this: On International Women’s Day, a rather tone-deaf Australian Prime Minister said that women’s empowerment shouldn’t come at a cost to men. “We don't want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”
Unfortunately, in many cases, that’s the only way there will be room for more women at the top. There’s limited space up there. As much as the television industry expands and changes, there is a limit to the money and influence available. So to make room for more women, someone’s got to go.
Will that person necessarily by a man? The law of averages right now says “yes.” (Great.) And eventually, there could be a more even split between men and women in television roles and wages. (Even better.) But the number of industry powerhouses who we “honour” on International Women’s Day? That will remain quite small.
That’s because according to a recent report, one percent of the population controls 50 percent of the world’s wealth. And while I haven’t found a similar report on the television industry, one could hypothesis that it has a similar ratio. The only way that one percent will increase even just to two, is if those in power give up half their income or the other 99 percent gives up even more.
So don’t celebrate the women who’ve made it to the top. They get enough pats on the back. Celebrate the little people.
Because without all the little people at the bottom, there is no top.