Catt Sadler on Leaving E! After Her Pay Controversy: "It Was Very Scary to Walk Away"
Badass Woman spotlights women who not only have a voice but defy the irrelevant preconceptions of gender. (Not to mention, they are exceptionally cool.) Here, Catt Sadler, former anchor for E! News, E! News Weekend, and Daily Pop, reveals how she found the courage to walk away from the dream job after learning about the major disparity between her salary and her male co-host's.
Why she’s a badass: On December 19, 2017, Catt Sadler published an article on her blog, theCATTWALK, titled “Why I Left E! Entertainment.” After learning that her co-host Jason Kennedy was earning almost double her salary, she felt she could not stay. “Information is power. Or it should be,” she wrote. “We are living in a new era. The gender pay gap is shrinking, although admittedly we have a long way to go. And well, I learned this first hand. My team and I asked for what I know I deserve and were denied repeatedly.
The response to Sadler’s statement was instant and staggering. Within minutes, fans, celebrities, and colleagues, came to Sadler’s defense. And in the weeks that followed, women including Eva Longoria and Debra Messing defended Sadler on live television at the Golden Globes. Time was up, they said.
On getting involved in women’s activism: "I was certainly familiar with women being paid less on the dollar. I was aware of the information. But I wasn’t particularly involved in any way, shape, or form prior to my own experience," Sadler told InStyle. "I will say that I’ve been very aware of a lot of women’s causes because, from a philanthropic standpoint, that’s always been my focus. My mom started a charity, The Women Like Us Foundation, and I’ve always invested in the rights of women and exposing the needs of women-based causes. But, this issue in particular, not so much."
But that began to change for Sadler, even before she found out she was personally experiencing the gender pay gap. "It wasn’t until probably the last five or six years when my mother’s passions have become more of my own. I got more intimately involved with her foundation. I was the president of a local chapter, and it is all female based. I led some local mentoring for teen girls. I’ve done sex trafficking drive-troughs in the middle of the night; I’ve gone to Africa solely to learn about the needs of some of the orphans and women there. So, just in recent years have I really connected with the need to use my voice."
On seeing women come to her defense: "Truthfully, it’s very hard to put into words. I never expected this type of response. I was like the rest of the world, watching the television when it unfolded. And I will tell you, it was a bit of an out-of-body experience. I’m humbled by it all. I’m grateful. And the wild thing is that now I’m in conversations with some of these women and I’m just learning from them. They’re teaching me. And if somehow I become stronger or more influential because now people are paying attention to my story, then only good can come from that."
Family matters: Sadler's decision to leave her job was probably most shocking to her sons, Austin, 17, and Arion, 13, she said. "I’m so happy to say that this isn’t a totally shocking, upheaval of their world by any stretch. They are a part of our family and their grandmother is a feminist. They are surrounded by a lot of strong women. But in the early discussions with them about the fact that I might be changing jobs, or leaving the only company that they had ever known I’d worked for, there was some trepidation on their behalf. As soon as I explained the situation, there’s been nothing but support from them," said Sadler. In fact, her sons have been he greatest source of comfort. "It’s been really cute. They’ll send me DM’s on Instagram of different strong women’s quotes—little pick-me-ups—and it’s so touching. I’m just so proud of them that they naturally are just responding to this in that way. They clearly care."
Her heroes: "First and foremost, my mother, Linda Rendleman. She is a published author. She’s a speaker. She’s running her foundation and has been for about a decade now, and I’m enamored with her and her work. From an early age, she was always all about 'you can do or be anything.' There were never any ceilings on that. She was always so strong in her devotion to what we as women can do."
"Beyond that," said Sadler, "Oprah was one of my first mentors in this business. When I first started on broadcasting I would never miss it: 4 o’clock at home in my living room, glued to the television: What was Oprah going to say? And that was 20 years ago. So the fact that, still today, that impressive speech that she gave [at the Golden Globes] ... that just moved the country. To this day, she’s teaching me and inspiring me. I got my bachelor’s degree in journalism but I feel like I got my master's degree in Oprah."
Sadler is also in awe of the women in Hollywood who are using their voices for good. "Jennifer Lawrence is unapologetic and fearless, Amy Schumer, Eva Longoria, the whole Time's Up movement—all of these brilliant, intelligent activists that have surfaced because of what’s going on. I’m in awe of them all," she said.
How to find courage: "We all feel fear. It’s all about what we do with it," Sadler said, explaining how she worked up the nerve to leave her job. "There are certainly things to this day that continue to scare me. Maybe it comes with age, but I’ve learned to tune into my thoughts and my emotions and my physical being of what is right and what is right for me. I did a lot of soul searching and, yes, it was very scary to walk away from a steady income and so many other things, but for me, it’s tuning in and knowing that you can’t settle, you can’t be afraid, you can’t live complacently. That fuels me to overcome the fear. That’s where courage comes from; from knowing what is right, staring it down, and getting to the other side. And I will say that on the other side of that there’s so much reward. When you get to the other side, the reward is spectacular."
What’s next: Now, Sadler is turning her attention to her blog, theCATTWALK. "The blog was born because there was demand for it. I had so many questions from people around the world asking me about everything from what vitamins I take to where I shop for jeans. And I love that," she said. "Because of having to be in front of the world every day of the week, over time, I became a bit of an expert in the [fashion and beauty] arena. And from a business standpoint, I always knew with the birth of the digital age, you better keep up—that if I’m not on the pulse of what’s happening digitally, then I’m going to be left behind. It does help having kids and it helps surrounding myself with people that are smarter than me in those spaces."
For Sadler, the key to turning the site into a successful business was building its team. "I have a company that works on the blog every day, one employee, and a handful of interns that help get that done so that it doesn’t seem like a throwaway side hustle. It really is an offering that I think people have grown to enjoy. Most definitely, I intend, now that I think I’ll have more time, to make it more personal," she said. "I’m on this Whole 30 diet right now, and everyone is asking me about it. I want to be able to answer those questions and continue a rapport with the people that want to have one with me. [The blog] is just a reflection of who I am. I love a great heel. I love some thigh-high boots. But I love doing my part to create a better world for the younger generation. And I’m a mom. I want to be all those things."