History Is the Only Reason 'The Queen' Was Paid Less Than 'Prince Philip'
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
According to reports like this one from Variety, producers of the Netflix show The Crown acknowledged that Claire Foy, who portrays Queen Elizabeth II, received less compensation than her co-star Matt Smith, who portrayed the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. The reason given was that Smith had previously made a name for himself as the star in one of the numerous Doctor Who reboots in England while Foy was a relative unknown.
Was this a case of gender discrimination? Probably, and it certainly wasn’t the first time this kind of thing happened in the entertainment industry. Responding to the public outcry, a promise was made to "rectify" the situation in the future. “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” creative director Suzanne Mackie happily confirmed. So, problem solved…right?
No. There will still be many cases like this in the days to come. There reason why: history. Not the history of Queen Elizabeth. The history of men and women.
Men have been the primary breadwinners in industrialized societies for hundreds of years. Women have been the primary caregivers of their families. Men have dominated executive and managerial positions in Fortune 1000 firms ever since Fortune started making their list. Women have mostly filled the roles of administrators and secretaries. Male managers perceive women as less reliable because they are more likely to leave their jobs for extended periods of time -- if not permanently -- to have and raise their children. Women have been portrayed as housekeepers, mothers, cooks, nannies and babysitters in radio programs, films and TV shows for decades.
Like the royal family, all of this is history but, also like the royal family, things are changing. Women are finally speaking up. They're handing over more domestic responsibilities to their significant others so that they can establish a more meaningful professional life. They're assuming more important jobs and establishing themselves as key contributors to organizations. They are calling out examples of discrimination, unfairness, injustice and intolerance. This is causing things to change, slowly but surely.
The lesson for anyone running a business is this: What’s in the past is in the past. Even though Queen Elizabeth is still alive and kicking, the country she reigns over in 2018 is not the same as it was in 1958 when she was crowned. Neither is this country. You need to also make sure you're changing. How? First step: Create an organization chart of your company, establish employment levels and re-address titles. If you don’t know how to do this, or don’t have the time, hire a consultant.
Next: make sure your employees -- regardless of gender -- are being paid commensurate with their level and not with their gender. Stop asking what people earned in the past and start paying salaries based on the current job (many cities and states are passing laws to ensure that you do this).
Then: Put aside those older biases about women and accept the fact that the family dynamic has changed from a few decades ago. If this means bumping up salaries and admitting mistakes then, like the producers of The Crown, you need to do that too.
Why? Because if you don't and you're discriminating, you're going to get found out. It’s likely you won't be audited by the government. Instead, you'll find that an employee has filed a claim against you with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Department of Labor.
You'll be investigated and your business will be disrupted. Don’t believe me? Here are just four examples from the past few weeks. Your people will know and this will be embarrassing. More likely, the news will become public and you'll have to explain yourself to others in the community. If you're guilty, you'll pay, and the payment will be significant. You don’t need this. You have other, more pressing things to worry about, like where the next job is coming from and whether that important order is going to get out the door in time.
Yes, history is the reason why Claire Foy was paid less than Matt Smith. It's just not a valid reason for you going forward.