Gina Rodriguez of "Jane the Virgin" On the Pay Gap: "Equality Stands On Merit, Not On Gender"
It's a commonly-cited statistic about the gender pay gap: Women, on average, earn just 82 cents for each dollar a man earns. Yes, there are skeptics who deny its validity — they argue that it only calculates the average annual earnings for women and men working full-time without factoring in education, prior experience, or the fact that women often work in lower-paying industries. But throughout numerous fields, high-paying or not, men are typically paid more — especially as they rise through the ranks — and women of all ages, races, education levels and professions can miss out on thousands of dollars (if not more) during the span of their career all because of the gap.
One such arena where that occurs? The entertainment industry. "Jane the Virgin" star Gina Rodriguez has seen first hand how easily women in Hollywood can miss out on earning their rightful wages. As someone who fought to get her foot in the door — and make sure she wasn't typecast in stereotypical Latina roles — Rodriguez was so grateful when she landed her breakout role, she didn’t even consider questioning how her pay might compare to other actors'. But now as women throughout the country are speaking out about the pay gap, Rodriguez wants to be right there alongside them, as an ally and an activist fighting for women and the pay that they deserve. And the matter becomes all the more pressing when it’s applied on a broad scale. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy research, closing the pay gap would add $513 billion to the economy each year and lift over 3 million women and their families out of poverty.
Ahead of Equal Pay Day — April 4 — Rodriguez partnered with LUNA (the brand behind the nutrition bars you may or may not have in your desk drawer right now) to bring awareness to the gender pay gap and continue moving forward in her mission to close it. It’s an issue that’s especially personal to Rodriguez: Latina women face the largest pay gap and earn just 54 percent of what white men earn annually (African American women follow closely behind at 63 percent). Glamour recently caught up with the CW star to talk about her collaboration with LUNA, how the pay gap has affected her own career, and what she would say to anyone who might deny that it exists.
Glamour: To kick things off, tell me a little bit about how you got involved in LUNA’s Equal Pay Day campaign?
Gina Rodriguez: When I was younger, I believed that if I got to a place like where I am now, I would use my voice to create change — whether it was for Latinos or women. I’ve been championed by other women, I want to champion and uplift women. There’s nothing but good that can come out of it. In the entertainment industry, there’s been a lot of talk about the gender gap and equal pay, more recently in the past few years. I wondered how I would fit into that conversation, as someone who came from a low-income family. Being more economically challenged, we were always so grateful to be working. It was difficult to feel like you could ask for more. That is a cultural stigma that has affected a lot of women. Appreciation could get you to stay quiet, humble, and complacent because you’re just so happy to be here. That’s something I have been a culprit of — regardless if a coworker or costar was making more than me, I was just so happy to be there.
This needs to be changed. At first, when I heard women having these conversations, I thought, "You make so much money!" But I realized it’s not about money. It's about creating space and opportunity. It’s about moving toward change. To work with LUNA and their longstanding championing of women — it's just ingrained in their DNA—I wanted to be partnered with a brand that empowered me. In our political climate, [we need to look for] opportunities to learn about women's empowerment and equality. I've been on that search myself. I've always been so grateful, so I stayed quiet because I didn't want this opportunity that I longed for to be taken away. How terrible is that? I was afraid, and I'm sure I’m not the only one.
Glamour: Yes — there are so many women across numerous industries who feel the same way and are hesitant to speak up. It's distressing.
GR: It is! So we have to come together, have this conversation, and start making movement toward that change. That’s what we’re doing. We’re not saying we're going to change it all in a day. But once a movement starts, it pushes forward with the strength of everyone behind it. It takes women saying this conversation needs to be had. It takes women uplifting those around them and making sure no one is left behind. It’s exciting to be a part of this because [fighting for equal pay] scared me at one point. But I knew it was a conversation that was needed. My parents raised me to go after what I wanted, to work hard, to be good to others, and to keep my integrity. I feel extremely [lucky], but at the same time, I'm deserving of equality when it comes to how hard I work. I believe that equality stands on merit, not on gender.
Glamour: Absolutely — it seems like such an obvious concept that everyone can agree with.
GR: Right? But so many of the simple things in life that seem so obvious are the hardest to grasp: love, equality, being good to one another. They seem so simple, so why make it harder? But then again, you can't control anyone’s actions but your own. So I'm just trying to control my actions. I'm having these conversations to create solutions — to create options for women to go out, learn more, and equip themselves. I wasn't equipped. I am someone who needed help to make that move and to really own that confidence that I was allowed to have.
Glamour: In your career and before you started acting, were there any instances where you recognized that you weren’t being paid fairly or getting the pay you deserved? How do you relate your experience as an actress to women of all experiences and background in a universal way?
GR: My experience started with where I grew up — in a predominantly Latino neighborhood and in a predominantly low-income neighborhood. Everybody — women and men — worked 10 times more than the people who were making all the money. I think I had blinders [when I first started my career.] I wasn’t even capable of comparing myself to men in my similar position because I was so appreciative. I’ve had to jump multiple hurdles when it comes to being an actor in the industry, especially being a woman—and being a woman of color. [At the start of my career], having discussions about being restricted to certain roles only because of my ethnicity felt like a stronger conversation. I was busy trying to overcome the limitations of being a woman of color that I didn’t realize other limitations were being put on me. When I finally got Jane and was able to be doing what I loved every day of my life, I didn’t stop to think about not getting paid equally. I was just so appreciative. I think I can relate to other women about that. We can fall so far behind in obtaining equal pay because we’re so happy to be [given an opportunity in the first place.] That fog was on me for a while. I can relate in that sense. When it came to pay, I never compared my journey to anyone else’s. I was always trying to stay in my own lane. I think that that could be a trap for a lot of women.
Glamour: There are still some people who may question the pay gap and deny it’s validity. Being such a vocal activist for women’s rights, what would you say to someone who might argue this point?
GR: I recently posted a picture [on Instagram about the pay gap] and women started to tear me down and tell me I was weak. In 2017, this is not something we should be [arguing] about. And being torn down by other women was a little more painful. If they don’t want to accept the facts, that’s fine — it's just how Donald Trump doesn’t accept that there’s global warming. You can deny it all you want but a fact is a fact. It gets dangerous when you don’t believe those facts. Then you're not doing anything about your circumstances or your situation. When someone says the pay gap is a myth and it doesn’t exist, then change will never happen for them. I’m not going to sit back and let that happen. I am aware that it is a fact. I am aware of the statistics. And I am aware that if I stay silent then nothing moves. If you have a conversation, then you start effecting change. I'm OK if it's slow and gradual. I'm in it for the long haul.
More From Glamour:
• 12 Real People Discover What the Pay Gap Looks Like
• Why Should a Man Make More Than Me?
• Gina Rodriguez Posted an Emotional Instagram About Last Night’s Insane "Jane the Virgin" Twist
• The Red Carpet Dress Gina Rodriguez Loaned a Fan Has Arrived—Read Their Sweet Conversation
Photo Credit: Getty Images