Why There Are So Few Women Among The World’s Highest-Paid Entertainers

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Taylor swift may top this year’s Global Celebrity 100 list of the 100 highest-earning entertainers, but she is one of only 15 women to make the cut. The ranking, which tallies annual earnings for celebrities around the world is comprised 85% of men—who earned a combined $4.2 billion, compared to the women’s $892.5 million. The imbalance reflects the gender pay gap endemic across industries–and national borders.

In this uneven showing, female musicians are best represented with eight singers joining the list. Pop powerhouses Taylor Swift and Adele are the only women in the top 10, earning an estimated $170 million and $80.5 million pretax respectively. They lead musical millionaires Madonna, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Katy Perry on the ranking.

“I’m an entrepreneur…I don’t want to shy away from it,” Perry told Forbes in 2015.

 The Complete Celebrity 100 List

This year’s ranking includes two businesswomen, Kim Kardashian West and Ellen DeGeneres, who pivoted from the small screen. Kardashian has moved from reality TV to mobile gaming, since expanding into emojis and a personalized subscription app

DeGeneres banked an impressive $75 million, largely from her daytime TV show, though she has also diversified into a mobile game and digital network. Judge Judy Sheindlin ($47 million) and Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara ($43 million) round out the highly-paid women onscreen. Vergara, meanwhile, has figured that lucrative endorsements can mint more than roles in which women are oftentimes paid unevenly: Most of her income comes from advertising and licensing deals, including a line of Rooms To Go furniture, a coffee maker and even cheetah-printed nurse uniforms.

While all the women on the ranking make millions more than most can dream of, they are still out-earned and outnumbered by male counterparts. On the silver screen, Jennifer Lawrence and Melissa McCarthy were the only female film stars to bank over the $30.5 million cut off, compared to 11 male actors on the list.

Top women can earn between $10 million to $20 million a film and negotiate for a share of the movie’s profits, but given the box office brawn of action movies and the genre’s male-dominated characters, it’s much rarer for women to get the sort of blockbuster roles that warrant the massive backend deals many leading men demand.

Like Vergara, McCarthy looks elsewhere for impact. She launched an all-sizes clothing line in 2015, with the thought that “if I could do anything to build women up rather than the constant tear down I’m going to do it,”

The movie pay gap is even more obscene overseas. This year, two Bollywood actors make the cut, but not a single woman. That’s because prominent Indian actresses can receive as little as one sixth of their male costars’ quotes, sources say.

Stateside, entertainment’s pay gap is persistent industry-wide in salaries of all scales. On average, white women get paid 78 cents to every dollar a white male makes, while Hispanic women earn 56 cents to a white male’s dollar, Black women 64 cents and Native American women just 59 cents to that.

Kim Kardashian West is one of three TV personalities on the list (photo credit: Jamel Toppin for Forbes)

Kim Kardashian West is one of three female TV personalities on the list (photo credit: Jamel Toppin for Forbes)

Given those depressing stats, it becomes necessary to inspire readers of all genders. But that’s difficult when the few women who are making bank are cautious to own their success by discussing it, dollar amounts included. Female entertainers “feel like it’s flaunting or flashy,” to discuss finances, suggests Perry, though their male counterparts have no such hangups.

“Whether it’s being a mom but still having a great job and loving what you do, if you work hard, you can break barriers,” says Kardashian

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