Catt Sadler on the One Question to Ask Before Accepting a Job
Money is power, and women aren’t getting their share of it. In America, men earn 20 percent more than women, and that disparity is even greater for women of color. Now is the time to close that gap—and these are the women doing it.
Catt Sadler never thought she’d be the face of the equal pay movement.
Last year at this time, she was killing it in her dream job as the host of E! News, E! News Weekend, and Daily Pop. And then one day, during a meeting with a top executive at the network, she got some surprising news: she was unknowingly being underpaid. By a lot. In fact, she was making half of what her co-host Jason Kennedy was earning for the same gig.
When E! wouldn’t rectify the situation, Sadler bravely walked away from the position that she’s worked for her entire career, explaining her reasoning on her blog, theCATTWALK. Just days after her decision, the Time’s Up Movement formalized, and Hollywood heavy hitters like Eva Longoria and Debra Messing came to Sadler’s defense on E!’s own broadcast from the 2018 Golden Globe Awards red carpet.
Now, almost four months later, Sadler has become a leader of the pay disparity fight in Hollywood and beyond.
The numbers themselves are staggering. On average, a whopping 20 percent of women make less than a male counterpart in the same position. And only 30 percent of women even negotiate their salaries, as opposed to 46 percent of men.
It’s those stats—and others—that have brought Sadler to N.Y.C. on Equal Pay Day to rally on the steps of City Hall for real change. Ahead of the rally, InStyle caught up with Sadler to chat about Time’s Up, the power of negotiation, and how we can all fight pay disparity.
VIDEO: Right Now: Ex-E! Host Catt Sadler Discusses Wage Gaps
Since you left E! in December, you’ve become the unofficial face of the equal pay fight. Did you think leaving your job would become such a talking point? The short answer is no. No, no, no. I did not in a million years think it would happen this way. Leaving E! was what I had to do for myself and my family. The whole experience has been hard but also thrilling, eye-opening, and touching, especially because of all of the women that have rallied behind me.
Who was the most surprising person to have your back? It's hard to pick one. The Debra Messing moment [at the Golden Globes] was big because I didn't know it was going to happen. That meant a lot and it reached so many people. I've cried a million times in the last couple months because of all of the women who have reached out on social media and email to tell me their stories. They’ve asked me to continue to use my voice to keep fighting for this, so here we are.
What has it been like to see celebrities using the red carpet as a vehicle to speak out about women’s issues? I am so encouraged by it. I mean, my story wasn't a happy one—leaving E! was a departure that I didn't want. But there are a lot more stories to be told too and that’s what’s happening finally. So many women have devastating, disturbing experiences that they’re sharing. It’s emotional, but it gets people talking about these important issues too. For me personally, I want to go beyond that now. I want to empower women with my story but also make lasting change.
Is it true that you're teaming up with Jennifer Lawrence to produce a series about the Time’s Up movement? Yes! I am unable to make an official announcement yet, but I assure you it's in the works. I can't wait for the day that I can tell everyone more.
You also recently teamed up with Luna Bar, which pledged to donate up to $100,000 to support salary negotiation resources for women. I’m working with Luna to bring the power of negotiation to women everywhere. Negotiation is a component of equal pay that’s an actual, tangible thing that women can learn and apply to their lives to actually help make that change.
What types of resources are available to women who want to become better negotiators? If you asked me that a year ago, I would've had no idea. And I think that's part of the problem—women don't know where to go. The American Association of University Women is actually a great place to start. Luna partnered with them for this project because they’re creating workshops that’re absolutely free and teach women different tools and ways to negotiate in the workplace.
What advice would you give a woman who recently found out she was making significantly less than a male counterpart? I'm well aware that the majority of women can't just walk away from their job tomorrow like I did. That's just not realistic. But if you’re deadlocked and your boss isn't moving and you’re going to essentially become another statistic, it's about engineering your exit strategy. And on top of that, because of the current political climate, there are so many rallies, organizations, and marches that you can turn to. I would encourage women to get involved in the fight because together we are all stronger.
What do you think women should be asking prospective employers before they take a job? When you’re talking to a future employer—before you even say yes to anything—it’s so important to ask the hard questions. It’s okay to declare ownership of your professional future by saying, “Do you believe in equal pay?” Or “If I take this job, can I be sure that a male in the same position, with the same experience, and the same education, and the same work load, will be on par with my salary?” It's okay to own that before you even step foot into a new company.
What’s the biggest mistake you think women make when they're negotiating? Culturally we’re taught as women to think, “Great, I got the job I wanted” instead of “What are other people making in the marketplace? or “What can I bring to the table to sweeten the pot a little bit?” Another key thing is putting down the number first. A lot of us wait to see what they’re offering, but we should be saying, “Here's what I would like.” Especially in the beginning of your career, you want to start off as high as possible because then you’re more likely to continue to grow that number. It’s harder to make big salary leaps down the line.
How do you know what number to throw out there, though? I say dream and dream big. The number is always going to shrink a little bit anyway in negotiation, right? If you've done your homework and looked at the industry standards, then you have an idea of what to ask for. I know that salary transparency has been taboo to talk about for so long. That's why I was blindsided in my own personal situation. I just trusted the process and the fact that I would be compensated appropriately. Now it’s time to go beyond that.
People often say that you should take emotion out of business decisions, but has it fueled you at all in the workplace? I think there's a place for emotion. It propels us towards our deepest desires, both professionally and personally. Had I not cared so deeply and been so devastated by my situation, I wouldn't have had the courage to leave. But I've also learned that it's good to take the emotion out of the negotiation process. 30 percent of women aren't even negotiating their salary at all. We have to get that changed, but there are right ways to do it and wrong ways. Practice negotiating with a friend. Role play different situations. Your livelihood is on the line.