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‘Barbie’ director Greta Gerwig has worried about negotiating: ‘I don’t want to ask for too much’

Even for ‘Barbie’ director Greta Gerwig, negotiating a salary isn’t always easy.

Gerwig’s movie is among the most anticipated films of the summer. And while her salary has not been made public, the movie has a budget of $145 million, according to Variety. Gerwig’s leading actors, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, are each making $12.5 million for the film, Variety also reported. 

Despite Gerwig’s Hollywood success and directing accolades, though, she hasn’t always been comfortable in salary negotiations, she told CNBC Make It in 2020.

Even with her agent acting as an intermediary, “I always have this sense of, ‘Don’t negotiate, just take whatever they’ll give us,’ because I’m just so scared that I won’t be able to make a movie,” she said. “I don’t want to ask for too much.”

For that reason, she’s glad to have a middleman pushing for more than she might herself.

Within the movie industry, Gerwig believes there is a need for more women directors. More movies should be made about women as well, she told Make It in 2020.

Even outside of Hollywood, there is room to grow when it comes to women’s salary lobbying power. Only 26% of female jobseekers negotiated their salaries, compared with 35% of male jobseekers, a 2018 survey from Jobvite found.

And Gerwig isn’t alone in her fear of asking for too much. Even when women ask for raises as much as men do, they’re only successful 15% of the time, compared with men’s 20%, researchers from the Harvard Business Review reported in 2018.

For many women, a major factor for a successful negotiation is knowing what you’re worth and asking to be paid a fair market value. Go into the discussion with hard facts about what your peers are earning and prove why you’re an asset to the company.

But for Gerwig, directing movies comes with a much different pay structure than other professions. “Figuring out how you should be reimbursed for something and what you are worth is complicated,” she says. How do you evaluate your value before you’ve even started the project?

Part of the problem is a lack of transparency around pay, an issue that isn’t unique to Hollywood, but certainly affects it. “On the one hand, everything is so public — you know how much a movie is grossing and you know roughly what the cost of making it was — but everything else is so hidden, like how much people are making or what their deals are,” Gerwig says.

Eventually, she sees herself working toward a compensation structure that reflects how well her movies perform, she says, like the many established directors who choose to own part of their film in place of taking a salary upfront.

As Gerwig puts it, it’s “a way to bet on yourself.”

This is an updated version of an article originally published in February 2020.

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