Beyonce performs during the Formation World Tour

Only 16% of the top earning celebrities are women

They may be earning billions of dollars, but here's why it still matters that female celebrities earn less than men

Beyonce, JK Rowling, and Kylie Jenner all made it into the list of the top 100 highest earning celebrities – but they’re three of only 16 women on the list.

In the top ten, musicians are pretty well represented: there are five. Authors do pretty well: there are two. Athletes: also two. Women, that group which makes up pretty much 50% of the population: also two.



The list was published by Forbes, a magazine which pretty much only exists to write about rich people (that’s not strictly true, but it def seems like it).

According to Forbes’s associate editor, the underrepresentation of women in the rich list is because of an underrepresentation of women in all industries. There are less women in music, film, top-level sport and literature – so it follows that there’ll be less super-successful ones.

But it feels like that ignores a really important point. Sure, women are underrepresented in these industries – in the UK charts this week there are just two women in the top ten. But just like in pretty much ever other industry, the ones that do make it to the top are also likely to be earning less than their male counterparts.

The pay gap's still a pay gap...


Just like for women in all industries, the for celebrities is a whole lot more complicated than being paid less for doing the same job – it’s got a lot to do with the opportunities people are given.

Let’s take music, for example. A few years ago, there was a big campaign to highlight just how few women were making it onto the line-ups of major festivals.


In 2015, one of the executives from the company that puts on Reading and Leeds festivals responded and said – quite literally – he was just trying to sell tickets. The big name male acts he was booking year after year after year just sold more tickets than if there were women on the bill.

See, the question here is about who's responsibility this inequality is. The festival booker might not think it's his fault that women just aren't as popular as men. But if women aren’t being booked for these jobs, they're not being given the chance to get the exposure they need, and to get more popular. It’s a vicious cycle – by just saying “women sell less tickets” festivals like Reading and Leeds aren't giving them the opportunity to sell more. When you're trying to make sure women get the opportunities to get to the top, these obstacles matter.

The same thing happens in sports. In 2016, Serena Williams (the women’s world number one) earned half what Novak Djokovic (the men’s world number one) earned. She is equally, if not more, famous as Djokovic (hello Serena), and just as successful – both won three of the four grand slams (the big tennis competitions) that year. But away from the major competitions – which since 2007 have given women equal prize money – the women's game is a whole lot less lucrative for the players. And again, there's the whole vicious cycle thing. If the women's game is less lucrative, it gets less funding, and it's harder for female players (particularly those in underfunded sports, or further down the rankings) to advance.



And finally, Hollywood. In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an open letter joining a growing number of women highlighting unequal pay for female actresses. She shared equal billing with Bradley Cooper and Christopher Bale, but when a hack into private Sony emails released a whole load of data to the public, found out she earned significantly less than them.

...Even if they are earning billions of dollars

When JLaw went public, Kate Winslet (along with a load of other people) came out to criticize her. She said she felt uncomfortable talking about money, and that the conversations were “vulgar”. She also said she felt “lucky” to be in the position she’s in.

Winslet’s point highlights something kind of important – is it okay to complain when you’re earning $52m in a year (as JLaw did in the year up to June 2015)?

The problem is, if you don’t complain you teach everyone that it’s okay not to complain. While it might be frustrating that it takes people like Jennifer Lawrence to get the message about pay inequality across, whether it’s movie stars or people working in public libraries it’s still something we need to talk about.

A woman earns on average 80 cents for every dollar a man makes in the United States. Earning an unfair wage makes it almost impossible for some women to lead comfortable lives, support their families, and achieve what they’re capable of.

So yeah, it's difficult to feel sorry for Beyonce for not having more female company in the billionaires club, but until we start challenging the reasons why there’s inequality at the top it’s gonna be pretty damn hard to make sure it’s also fair for everyone else.

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Reader Comments

  • WhereAreTheVikings

    What a terrible, terrible shame. Western Civilization nurtured capitalism, and now capitalism is destroying it. And these young people seem to welcome the invasion of their homeland. The media and schools have been very efficient in wiping out all traces of blood and soil.

    • prollawalllynotahumanoid

      Capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s corrupt politicians taking bribes and kickbacks from Globalists and the Chinese.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        Maybe I should have said crony capitalism. Although Italians importing Chinese to make “Italian leather” shoes is not crony capitalism. It is capitalism, pure and simple.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          That would be crony capitalism and globalism combined. They aren’t concerned with the affect their policies have upon their citizens, the health and welfare of their society and culture or their economy. What it isn’t is fair-free trade to further national interests.

          • WhereAreTheVikings

            I’ve always seen them as one and the same, but perhaps they need to be named individually, just to bring home the point.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        But now that travel is so easy and borders are virtually down through H1bs and the like, theoretically you can’t blame capitalists for the pursuit of cheaper labor, although I do heartily blame them not being more patriotic than that. Perhaps the emerging nationalism will force them to voluntarily do what they should have morally been doing all along, and that is employing business practices that preserve their countries and nationalities. The government should be doing everything it can to encourage that, to the extent that small government should do anything but guard the borders and strictly, drastically, limit immigration.

      • Henry Lam

        It is China with its corrupted mindset affecting the world.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          No it is not. Capitalism is the fairest and least corrupt system of all.

          Socialism and communism is based on authoritarianism, coercion and police intimidation. It has and always will be rife with criminality, bribes and kickbacks.

          Corruption can be anywhere but it is the very basis of socialism and communism.

    • Henry Lam

      The government is too weak. They do not understand the mindset of communists and how they educate their people. Those communist people are only loyal to their country and could be dangerous. The immigration law should only accept those who accepted multiculturalism and taught from a democratic education system. This virus events clearly has shown how stupid to take China as a friend.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        The government is not too weak. Just weak-minded about some things.

  • Gabi Rodrigues

    For how many days can a country maximum close their borders to foreigners maximum? Like now, with the virus, everyone is using 30 days. Can it be more?