Catt Sadler talks to us about her fight for equal pay: "I'm in it for the long haul"
In October 2017, the New Yorker published an exposé that ousted film mogul Harvey Weinstein as a serial sexual assaulter. Reported by Ronan Farrow, the ten-month investigation detailed accounts of assault and harassment by Weinstein from 13 women that occurred between the 1960s and 2015. No one could have predicted the outcome of Farrow’s investigation: the rapid disintegration of a pervasive system, in which new batches of powerful abusers were unmasked in swift, factory-like succession almost weekly. From this reckoning (which filmmaker and abuser Woody Allen referred to as a “witch hunt”), Me Too and Time’s Up were born. Established on unsteady footing due to its lack of intersectionality, the campaigns are now being reframed to include the marginalized.
Two months after the New Yorker’s piece, another reckoning occurred: journalist Catt Sadler announced her departure from E! after 12 years with the network. Connected to the core of Me Too and Time’s Up, Sadler revealed a massive pay disparity existed between her and her male counterpart, Jason Kennedy. Her departure capped off a tumultuous 2017 — one that saw the upheaval of a system that, for so long, disregarded and devalued women. Fast forward to April 2018, and Sadler and women across the globe are mobilizing.
A day before Equal Pay Day 2018, I spoke to Sadler about her partnership with LUNA Bar to combat pay disparity. “I really couldn’t have predicted how positive the response had been to me leaving,” Sadler said during our phone conversation. “I’m so touched by [the amount of] strangers that I heard from [who] rallied behind me. I feel encouraged because I have a lot of support, and, in turn, I have even more of a platform to use my voice [and] continue to talk about this important issue, and do something about it.”
Of her departure from E!, she told HG that “the most challenging [was] probably the first couple weeks and months — just the emotional toll [of that] departure.” She continued, “I did a lot of soul searching to get to that decision. I had gotten up five days a week for more than a decade to leave the house [to be] on TV. It was an adjustment, physically. Everything for me was still new and different.”
Discussing all things equal pay, disparity for women of color, and future projects, below are more insights from Sadler.
Your partnership with LUNA Bar seeks to empower women to negotiate for equal pay. Can you speak more on your negotiation process with E!?
Catt Sadler: I think what didn’t help me at the end in regards to negotiation was that I wasn’t aware for so many years [of] just how underpaid I was. Information is power, and I got that information a little too late down the line. I knew I wasn’t going to get what I knew I deserved. [With] this initiative [with] LUNA Bar, I’ve learned so much in the last several weeks, and I am just so excited to share this information with women everywhere, because it’s the one area of equal pay where we really have control. There are so many variables that go into [the] wage gap, but negotiation is something that, with the right tools, we can do better. We can negotiate higher salaries for ourselves. And we can negotiate higher salaries early on when girls are just getting out of college, so that they’re not playing catch up their whole lives. I interviewed four amazing negotiators in different industries: food, tech, sport, and fashion, and they have [provided] very tangible ways for every girl to go out and apply this to their own scenario. It’s all online at LUNABar.com. They’ve partnered with AAUW [American Association of University Women], which has e-tools online where anybody can access this. It is free, and it is a resource. I’m excited that we can do something with this information [and] not just talk about equal pay, but actually [be able to] give gals real, useful tips so they can go out and get what they deserve.
Pay disparity is worse for women of color. What changes need to occur in order to support women across all boards — especially the marginalized?
CS: Structurally, I think it’s gonna take some legislation. We should look to some of the other countries out there that are doing it right, like Iceland. [Iceland] made it illegal to pay women less than men based on gender alone. I’m glad you brought that up. I want people to talk about that more. Black women are making 63 cents compared to their white male counterparts, and Latinas are making, I believe, 54 cents to a dollar. That’s outrageous [and] definitely has to be part of the conversation. We’ve gotta come at it at all angles. I like that companies like LUNA Bar are making a stand, and shouting out these statistics. It’s gonna have to be at a corporate level [and] from a legislative level. It’s gonna take the power of the community; I’m speaking at the steps of [New York City’s] City Hall for Equal Pay Day. The good news is I do believe it’s happening right now. We’re in the middle of a really encouraging movement. We just have to keep it going, and it has to be more than just talk. It has to be actual action. I’m in it for the long haul.
How can men help the fight for equal pay?
CS: Men have their voices also, and they should be using them. They should be standing up for their female colleagues. And maybe it’s knocking on their manager’s door and asking the same questions we’re asking. ‘Why is my colleague, who is similarly situated and similarly experienced, making less?’ These conversations can be awkward and not particularly easy, but equality is our basic right. [Men] need to be a part of this conversation. At the end of the day, society as a whole is better off when women are making more money. We contribute to households now, you know. We are the wives of these men, the children of these men, so [they should] have a vested interest to rally around us as we continue this fight.
What is your advice for women facing pay disparity in their careers?
CS: Well, let me just start by saying that I’m well aware that not everybody can quit their jobs or just walk away today. One has to be fiscally prepared to do that. So, if you can, I would say to engineer a good exit strategy. There’s homework involved. You’ve got to know how to negotiate moving forward; think about your next job. Are you gonna ask all the right questions? It’s OK to say, you know, ‘If I work here, can I be guaranteed that my male equivalent isn’t making more than me?’ You wanna work for the right people. There is an ownership to that and an accountability we put on ourselves. And just knowing your worth, and knowing your market value based on whatever your job is. That information really is out there, more than ever. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think we’re moving in the right direction. I’ve heard from dozens and dozens and dozens of women and their stories are horrific. A lot of women are working multiple jobs, and then they’re coming home and working the job as mom — all of that, and they’re underpaid and undervalued. It can be very debilitating, but I hope they keep their chins up; know [that] change is on the way, and that those of us [who] can are doing the work that needs to be done.
What can we expect from you in terms of future projects? Would you pursue projects that diverge from broadcast journalism?
CS: I think at the core, I’ll always be a journalist. I love being on camera, obviously. Believe or not, that’s my safe place. It’s just what I know. Right now, [I’m] focusing on the creative end of that — producing and developing projects; most of them, right now, around this very issue. I wanna explore this to the fullest. I wanna use my professional experience and any ability I have in this realm to continue to tell the story for the women who don’t have a voice. I’m writing a book. I’m producing a podcast. I’m still designing. I have a handbag that’s out right now with LumillaMingus. I’m also launching my new website [thecattwalk.com] on May 1st. It used to be more of a blog, but now it’s gonna be packed with conversations with really fascinating women and advice. I’m gonna have a ‘Dear Catt’ column where people can write to me about anything to everything. I’m excited because I have a real creative freedom right now, and I’m leaning into that as much as I can.
Watch the promo video for Sadler and LUNA Bar’s partnership below.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. LUNA Bar is offering a 20% discount on bars sold at LUNABar.com from now until April 14th. LUNA Bar will match discount proceeds with a donation to the American Association of University Women, which will fund salary negotiation resources for women.