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Michelle Williams: I was 'paralyzed' after learning about pay disparity

The four-time, Oscar-nominated actress gave a powerful speech in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Image: Michelle Williams poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 2017.
Michelle Williams poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 2017.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file

Michelle Williams is taking her fight for equal pay from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.

The four-time Oscar nominee drew on her personal experience while voicing support for the Paycheck Fairness Act during a powerful speech to lawmakers on Tuesday, which coincided Equal Pay Day.

“When a person or a group of people acknowledge your worth, you seek to meet that worth because they see you as you want to be seen ... ” Williams said in Washington, D.C. “And when you feel you are valued, you express your value. And where does that value go? It goes to your work. It goes to your fellow colleagues. It goes to employer. It benefits your entire organization. It strengthens the parts that advance the whole. This is the kind of human math that it only takes a heart to add up.”

She continued, “Imagine a workplace where women don’t have to spend extra or any energy fighting for fair pay or defending their rights but can instead focus that energy on the fullest expression of the task at hand and enjoy both the pride that brings and the product of that pride, which is fair and equal compensation for every woman.”

The issue hits home for Williams, 38. In late 2017, she learned that she was paid just one-tenth of 1 percent of the $1.5 million that her co-star Mark Wahlberg earned for reshooting scenes in the movie “All the Money in the World.” For the same amount of work, Williams earned less than $1,000. She recounted feeling “paralyzed in feelings of futility.”

When the news about the pay discrepancy broke, fellow actress Jessica Chastain asked Williams if she could share her story on Twitter, and it quickly went viral. Many others followed her lead.

In response to the backlash, Wahlberg issued a statement saying, "I 100 percent support the fight for fair pay” and donated his $1.5 million to the women’s fund Time’s Up, which was founded to combat abuse and gender inequality in the entertainment industry. Wahlberg’s agency, William Morris Endeavor, added an additional donation of $500,000.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, which was first introduced by Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut in 1997, passed in the House in March.

The bill strengthens protections against wage discrimination and holds employers accountable in an effort to address the gender pay gap — of which women currently earn 80 cents for every dollar that men are paid.

House Democrats passed the Paycheck Fairness Act when they were in the majority back in 2009, but it failed the next year in the Senate. Democrats are hopeful that momentum from the #MeToo movement and the record number of women now in Congress will bring the bill over the finish line.

“Thank you to Michelle Williams for sharing her compelling and heartfelt story of wage discrimination, inspiring women across America to stand up for #EqualPay,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted after Williams’ speech. “Now we call on the Senate to pass the #PaycheckFairness Act to ensure the economic equality for America’s working women.”