Why it’s not tacky to talk about money

The patriarchy relies on our silence

A World War II color poster depicting ‘Rosie the Riveter’ encourages American women to show their strength and go to work for the war effort by J. Howard Miller in circa 1940. (Photo courtesy National Archives/Getty Images)

Again, I quote from Gabrielle Union.

[Read her books – I mean it. They’re good.]

This story is about money. About how much we are worth. And about how talking about money helps women.

Union has a female friend who was putting together a movie.

My friend saw that each [player] got their deal done for the film, as she waited to get hers done at the end. She figured she’d get all the ducks in a row first, and then she’d get herself paid.

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

That’s not what happened. When it came time to negotiate her own package, the money people tried to offer her “way less than one of the newcomers hired to play a supporting role.”

When the friend protested, the money people gave the same answer corporate men so often give: If you believe in this project, shouldn’t you be willing to take less money to be a part of it?

Nope nope nope.

That is BS.

That is the same argument non-profits use to try to get their employees, who are often already accepting lower pay than for-profits pay, to donate to the organization.

I don’t see anyone asking male CEOs to take a cut in pay because they believe in the project. Or male actors and producers. Perhaps they are asking and nobody hears about it?

But I doubt it because I am cynical and I have been on this rodeo before.

Back to the story.

The friend said she was not born yesterday.

Which is when the money people – wait – the money MEN because you know 1. it’s men who have the power and 2. men are the ones who say crap like this to women – said that because she was old, she should be grateful to be getting anything.

…then they said that is was exactly because she was not born yesterday that they had to offer her less. She was older….it should be understood that she was lucky to work.

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union


Also – has anyone told Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise they need to take a pay cut because they’re older? That they’re “lucky to work?”

Union’s friend called Union and the other actresses she knew would be called for the part and told them what was going on.

“What is your worth on this?” I asked. “If they hit me, which you know they will, what’s the amount you feel you should have?”

She gave me that number.

“Bet,” I wrote back.

So of course here they came. “We’ve got this great opportunity,” they said. They went through all the stars and the moon that my friend had hung for this project, not mentioning her once. “You would be perfect for this role. You are exactly who we envision. A Gabrielle Union. The Gabrielle Union.”

“Yeah, okay,” I said. “This is what I need.” I gave my friend’s number.

They were speechless. Then they offered me even less than what they said they would pay her. Hundreds of thousands of dollars less.

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

The money men went through the entire list of Black actresses.

[t]he number they offered got lower and lower as they went down the list….The longer it took, the more they risked losing the[newcomer], the actress who had gotten the bigger check. Finally, when the younger ingenue realized my girlfriend was out, she said, “I’m not gonna do this without the person that brought me to the dance.”

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union


The money men were forced to return to Union’s friend and pay her more than she had originally asked for.


SHE WON! They came back and paid her MORE.

Union says:

Sometimes using your privilege isn’t to ensure your paycheck – it’s to ensure the paychecks of those who come after you.


  • Share pay information
  • Support other women
  • Share pay information
  • Did I say share pay information?

(And to follow my own advice – I was making $67k as a communications specialist at an F100 last year. Which – is less than I made three years out of college and $30k less than I was making as a marketing manager a few years ago and $50k less than I made when I worked for the paper company but well what are you going to do when you need a job that has health insurance? Still, does not change my point. Share pay information.)


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