Jada Pinkett Smith Attributes Gender Pay Gap To Stunted Acting Career—Was Told “You Don’t Need It, You’re Married To Will”


NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 16:Jada Pinkett Smith leaves ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ at the Ed Sullivan Theater on October 16, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)

Leading up to this year’s Equal Pay Day, Jada Pinkett Smith weighed in how the gender wage gap affected her acting career.

In a recent interview with NPR’s “It’s Been a Minute,” she shared that her “heart broke” for Taraji P.Henson, who last year expressed the challenges of being an underpaid Black actor in Hollywood, Pinkett Smith applauded the courage it took for Henson to speak up because she herself could relate.

“One of the things with Taraji — she is the breadwinner of her family,” Pinkett Smith said. “Her pressures would be different than mine. I have to put that out front because if it’s time to walk away, you can’t — you can’t always. That’s not always the solution, you know what I mean? You can’t. ‘Cause what people don’t understand as well, with us, as Black entertainers, we carry a lot of people with us.”

Pinkett Smith took a step back decades ago to support her husband Will during his meteoric rise and raise their two children, but it wasn’t without incident.

“People would literally say, ‘well, you don’t need it, you’re married to Will’… I’ve heard that several times,” Pinkett Smith shared with the podcast’s host Brittany Luse.

Although Pinkett Smith’s issues may sound like first world ones, her challenges echo that of many other women.

As ESSENCE previously reported, a 2020 report released by The Century Foundation and The Center for American Progress said four times as many women as men “dropped out” of the labor force in that year, and roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men.

This drop-off of women in the workforce plays into the pervasiveness of the wage gap, which, for Black women, means they make 67 cents for every dollar a non-Black man makes.


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