09 Nov No Matter Who it Is Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Being Mary Jane is the No. 1 scripted cable series among black viewers in the 18-49 demographic and has garnered 1.3 million viewers in the demo, making it one of the top five cable shows according to the Hollywood Reporter.
With the success of this BET show, there’s no wonder its lead actor had to question her contract and ask for what she deserves.
Being Mary Jane has a great story line and a great plot about a woman who tries to be a heroine, an “everywoman” to every person in her life. From work, family and to love she tries to win at them all and forgets that she’s human and flawed after all. This delicious storyline with a black lead was created by a black woman for a network founded for black people. So I imagine Gabrielle Union wrestled with the thought of having to sue the network for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
I’m sure the decision wasn’t easy, but the actress had to make sure she was getting her fair share. “My mortgage. My mortgage alone (laughs). I put in the same hours as most men and if not more. And I deserve to get paid the same. Equal pay, equal work. And that’s how it should be. And if you stand up for nothing, you’ll fall for anything,” she shared in a recent interview.
You see one of the biggest issues to-date and one that has played a part in this election season has been the wage gap between men and women and between black and white workers.
In Hollywood, a recent leak of actors salary showed the discrepancies between white and black actors and men and women. The same discrepancies can be seen in the average salary of everyday people. That’s why Gabrielle’s decision to take a stand and ask for the pay that she deserves is important for all of us.
We have to learn how to advocate for ourselves. Employers can be unfair. They are unfair to save a dollar, they are unfair when they don’t see your value and they are unfair when they think you will let it slide. Don’t let them think that. Speak up like Gabrielle did. The minute she learned that BET wanted to combine two seasons of work into a short filming time she immediately spoke up. This was not in her agreement with the network and she immediately took measures to correct the error.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more. According to LeanIn.org’s annual survey on women in the workplace, “Women were more likely than men (30 percent versus 23 percent) to report that after asking for a raise or a promotion, they received negative performance feedback that they were “bossy,” “aggressive,” or “intimidating.”’ Being deemed as bossy or hard to work with are reasons why some women shy away from negotiating their salary. They don’t want to come off as demanding, but you can’t settle for a salary if you know you’re worth more. Asking for the pay you deserve should not come with negative feedback and if it does should you care? I’m sure Gabrielle received a lot of backlash on and off the set, but do those people pay her bills? No. Did they work over 20 years to climb the Hollywood ladder to get where she is today? No. Therefore, she did what she had to do to maintain her respect in the industry and gain the salary she deserves.
It’s funny how people who look like you expect you to expect less. I know I can get an amen with that statement. It’s cool to work for employers who employ people who look like you and produce content that is favorable to your community. However, sometimes there’s this assumption that you will take a pay cut. Some folks think that you’ll be okay with an I.O.U. and receive delayed payments, and that you’ll sell yourself short for the betterment of the people. That you’ll do it for the culture because the culture needs this and it needs you. It becomes a Black thing and that’s not fair. Yes, it’s BET. Yes, it’s Being Mary Jane and no one will play Mary Jane Paul like Gabrielle. However, she can not allow the circumstances to prevent her from getting her rightful salary. If anything is being done for the culture, it’s her taking a stand, setting an example and trying to close the wage gap.
No matter who it is, don’t sell yourself short.
Also published on Medium.