Chances are, you’ve seen the Big Bang Theory. According to Neilsen ratings, it was the most watched primetime television program of 2016, beating out even Sunday Night Football and it has been the most watched scripted television show for the past three years. It is a show about four cliché male scientists, who are brilliant but socially awkward, and their equally cliché beautiful neighbor who befriends them. I particularly love the show because it makes it seem “cool” to be a nerd. I wouldn’t say that any of the shows characters exhibit a tremendous amount of leadership. The actors who portray them, well that’s a different story.
Recently, the cast of the show made the news because all five of the original cast members had agreed to take a pay cut so that two of the other principle cast members could get a raise. This was a tremendous show of unity and, more importantly, leadership. Those five actors might not be the executive producers, but they showed textbook leadership according to Northouse. They recognized that there was inequity, and began the process of righting that wrong. They then used their collective influence until they successfully reached their goal and their cast mates received a salary more comparable to their own.
The thing that I think is more interesting, but is not being talked about quite as openly, is why those two actors make less money. And, to be clear, they don’t just make less money than their counterparts, they only make 20% of what the other principle actors make per episode. This discrepancy is particularly heinous because their screen time in recent seasons is almost the same as the rest of the principles, and one of them has been nominated for an Emmy four times for the role. The most glaringly obvious difference is that these two lesser-paid actors are women. Can anyone prove that their gender is the reason? Of course not! But we know that women only make about 80 cents to a dollar that a man makes. Even by those standards, these actors aren’t getting their fair share.
Interestingly, in addition to the additional salary that they will receive due to the aforementioned pay cuts, the two women are rumored to be demanding parity for the final two seasons. Contract negotiations basically require a person to promote themselves and justify their worth to the company. But the research says that women are seen as less hirable if they self-promote (Rudman, 1998). This means that negotiating is a catch-22 for women. The very act of negotiating her value makes a woman less valuable. Teachers might not get paid a tremendous amount of money, but that realization makes me glad that my government job will never require me to argue my own worth.
Northouse, P. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Purcell, C. (2017, March 3). Here’s how much money the cast of the Big Bang Theory makes per episode. Retrieved from www.businessinsider.com.
Rudman, L. A. (1998). Self-promotion as a risk-factor for women: The costs and benefits of counter-stereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 629-645.