Michelle Williams appears on Capitol Hill to support Paycheck Fairness Act

PHOTO: Michelle Williams speaks during the Democratic Womens Caucus press conference marking Equal Pay Day and celebrating passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, April 2, 2019, in Washington, DC.PlayBill Clark/AP
WATCH Actress Michelle Williams takes equal pay fight to Capitol Hill

Actor Michelle Williams, who found herself at the center of a national debate on gender parity after it was revealed that she was paid less than 1% of what her male co-star received for the same amount of work, spoke to lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday about her story and her support for the Paycheck Fairness Act.

"In late 2017, the news broke that I had been paid less than $1,000 compared to the $1.5 million that my male counterpart had received for the exact same amount of work," she said, adding, "And guess what? No one cared."

Williams, 38, was referencing her work in the 2017 film "All the Money in the World," which was re-shot without Kevin Spacey after multiple men came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against him. During the reshoot, Williams' co-star Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million, compared to Williams' $80 per diem, or a total of less than $1,000.

Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams attend the premiere of Sony Pictures Entertainments All The Money In The World at Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Dec. 18, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Kevin Winter/Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams attend the premiere of Sony Pictures Entertainment's "All The Money In The World" at Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Dec. 18, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"This came as no surprise to me, it simply reinforced my life-learned belief that equality was not an inalienable right and that women would always be working just as hard for less money, while shouldering more responsibility in their homes," she said Tuesday.

"And if it was like this for me, a white woman in a glamourized industry, how were my sisters suffering across their professions?" Williams added.

While she said she initially felt defeated, she describes how fellow actress Jessica Chastain "wasn't afraid to pick up a megaphone" with Williams' story, sharing it on her Twitter and causing "an uproar and public shaming within my industry that resulted in a $2 million donation to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund."

PHOTO: Michelle Williams speaks during the Democratic Womens Caucus press conference marking Equal Pay Day and celebrating passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, April 2, 2019, in Washington, DC. Bill Clark/AP
Michelle Williams speaks during the Democratic Women's Caucus press conference marking Equal Pay Day and celebrating passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, April 2, 2019, in Washington, DC.

When news of the inequality broke, Wahlberg announced that he was donating his $1.5 million from the reshoots to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund in Williams' name. Wahlberg's agency, William Morris Endeavor, also donated another $500,000, bringing the total gift to $2 million.

The legal defense fund aims to "subsidize legal support for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation in the workplace," its website reads.

She also spoke about how the explosive #MeToo movement upended Hollywood, and how after 25 years in her industry, she just recently learned "what it was like to be on the inside, to be one of the boys" and to know "respect and safety" in the workplace.

Equal pay for equal work benefits not just the women, but the entire workplace as a whole, Williams added.

PHOTO: Michelle Williams poses for a portrait while promoting the movie All the Money in the World in Los Angeles, Dec. 16, 2017. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters FILE
Michelle Williams poses for a portrait while promoting the movie "All the Money in the World" in Los Angeles, Dec. 16, 2017.

"When a person or a group of people acknowledge your worth, you seek to meet that worth," she said. " And when you feel you are valued, you express your value, and where does that value go? It goes to your work, it goes to your fellow colleagues, it goes to your employer, it benefits your entire organization."

When you feel you are valued, you express your value, and where does that value go? It goes to your work, it goes to your fellow colleagues, it goes to your employer, it benefits your entire organization.

"It strengthens the parts that advance the whole," she said. "This is the kind of human math that it only takes a heart to add up."

The Academy Award-nominated actress called on the public to "imagine a workplace where women don't have to spend extra, or any, energy fighting for fair pay or defending their rights, but can instead focus that energy on the fullest expression of the task at hand, and enjoy both the pride that brings and the product of that pride, which is fair and equal compensation for every woman."

"This is the next critical moment," she said. "Please don’t let it pass us by."