When Catt Sadler left E! News in December, she unintentionally became part of a much bigger fight. #MeToo was in full swing and Time’s Up was just around the corner, in part due to Sadler’s exit after learning her male colleague made nearly twice as much as she did.
With April 10 being Equal Pay Day, Sadler was the natural choice for Luna Bar’s annual brand partnership. The brand is encouraging women to arm themselves with the tools for earning equal pay and offering an online discount that will match up to $100,000 in donations for American Association of University Women (through April 14).
Mashable spoke to Sadler in New York City just before Equal Pay Day about her experience with E! News and what it’s like to accidentally become the face of a movement.
This is such a logical partnership for you for Equal Pay Day – you’ve sort of inadvertently become the spokesperson for this issue. What’s that been like?
Unexpected. Definitely unexpected but very welcomed at the same time, because this entire experience has been a bit of a rollercoaster but it’s been so empowering and encouraging. I’ve heard from so many women and girls who, sadly, are suffering from similar experiences, so now I’m just at this point where I feel this duty to use my voice, you know? I didn’t predict that this was where I would be sitting at this moment in this year after what had happened but it’s an obligation now and one I love having because most people don’t have the voice to go out and make noise about this issue. So I’m happy to be the one.
You came forward in December. What was that like? How did you feel when you first found out – how do you process that kind of information?
It was a couple phases of learning what I did. I was kind of tipped off earlier in the year and then — my salary versus his salary was really confirmed later in the year. To be honest, it was infuriating and disappointing, but I was so certain that they were going to meet me where they needed to meet me. And I was so confident because I knew how hard I worked and I knew my worth! I’ve said that, I know my value after 20 years of being in broadcasting, and so I really thought they were going to meet me there. That’s when things really started to become clear to me was when the negotiations were collapsing. We didn’t reach the same conclusion, I guess, at the end of the day. That was very difficult.
And then you wrote that blog post. What prompted you to do that, to go a step further and share that information?
Well I owed the viewers an explanation. I mean, I couldn’t go on air on my last day on the two different shows I said goodbye and just say, ‘Thanks for 12 years’ without explaining why I was leaving. It wasn’t my choice. I like to say I didn’t quit, they just refused to pay me my worth. So I had to write the blog post because it was my truth and I owed it to the people that watched me on TV around the world. I wanted them to know my story and I was privy enough to the realities of pay gap to know that my story might resonate with other people. No assurance of that, certainly, but boy did it really resonate.
Afterward, the network also kind of doubled down on that. They said they “saw it through a different lens” and that must have been frustrating too, when they’re not saying the same thing as you but you are, as you said, so certain.
You know what? It fueled me to get to this point where I am today. Sometimes there are those opportunities and the real obstacles in life, and that was certainly an adverse situation. But all of that is serving me now in the very best way, so I am all eyes forward, I am not looking in the rearview mirror. I am ‘What do I do now’ and ‘How can I make an impact and do meaningful work?’
How would you advise women to behave who find themselves in a similar situation. As you said, you’ve heard from many who were.
Firstly, I’m well aware that so many women can’t just quit their job on a Tuesday. You have to really I think engineer your exit, certainly fight for what you believe is right and what you’re worth, but if you’re at a dead end and you’re not getting paid fairly then I say engineer an exit strategy so that you’re on to the next but you’re armed with so much information. I mean, this entire campaign with Luna Bar is about the art of negotiation. That’s one area where we have control over our salaries. I think a lot of women don’t know that – only 30 percent of women apparently are even bothering to negotiate. We get a number, we get a job offer, we got a great job, okay, now I’ll live and die and breathe this job for my career – right? That’s – we gotta stop doing that, as women.
So A) stop doing that, but then go to lunabar.com, there are amazing tools. I learned so much through this partnership from these key negotiators who really know what they’re doing, about how to get in the room and do what’s right. Roleplay with other people, practice your negotiation, put the number down first; don’t wait for your employer to offer you your number. There’s just a wealth of information and things you can do to I think make a difference, and that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to just talk about this all day – I think as a culture we’ve got to find tangible ways to evoke lasting change.
How can men also be part of this? How can they help the women they work with and kind of put their money where their mouth is, or vice versa?
Well use that mouth! Use your voice. There is proof that as a society we will be better off if women are making more money, so it behooves the men to use their voice. Go knock on a manager’s door and fight for your colleagues. Say something, bring it to their attention…express your support for your sisters, if you will. They’ve got daughters, a lot of these men, who are the next generation. They want their daughters to be making as much as anybody else, so they’ve got to be a part of the conversation as well. Come to the rallies, I’m on the steps of city hall [today] speaking for Equal Pay Day. The guys should get out there, join us! It’s important.
One tweet that went really viral in the past several months was someone say that the one thing male colleagues can do is just tell someone else what you make. Just start there.
Mmm, transparency is huge. That’s massive, I support that notion fully. And just in general, the men can say, ‘Oh here’s what I’m making’ so that we, the women know, but women too. I think we just have to get away from this taboo of people just don’t talk about what they make. If you look at the sports industry for example, everybody knows what Tom Brady makes. You know what these people are making, it’s out there, it’s public information. Hollywood for whatever reason, the entertainment industry, is way different. But across all industries I think yeah, transparency will lead to power. Because if you don’t know you don’t know. I didn’t know for several years. It’s an awakening.
The sports industry is an interesting example because that is so overwhelmingly male. I feel like that’s definitely part of it.
Yeah, probably so. I’m sitting here today and I don’t think we know how much Serena Williams makes. I don’t know, or maybe people do. But that’s definitely a male-dominated industry. Just in general I think that might be tougher than it sounds and maybe harder for the guys.
A woman who finds out years into their career that they’re in a situation like yours – in the moment you must have so many things you want to do, so many people you want to go yell at or talk to. How do you measure that process? It’s so easy to act impulsively and then get labeled as angry or wanting more than we deserve.
Yeah. I think in general we’re labeled. In general we operate out of wanting to be liked, not wanting to ruffle feathers, not asking for too much. If we speak up too much, the way we will be perceived moving forward, will that hurt us down the line? So we play it safe because typically, we as women, are operating in this space that we’re just lucky to have the job. We have to change that. I think you have to stare down the fear and get over it.
If you were really demoted or passed off for a promotion [and] gonna be paid less for speaking your truth and speaking out and having the courage to ask the tough questions, then you know what? You probably want to work somewhere else. I think we’ve got to make noise now. I think we’re actually doing that. That’s what’s really cool about this movement and what inspired me to speak out from the beginning. I looked at some of my mentors and heroes; Jennifer Lawrence was speaking out about the Sony leak and found out what she was paid and she was appalled. But she spoke to it, and the more we do that, the more that companies, employers, would have to shift what they’ve done in the past.
And right now, as you said, in the current moment, there’s all these parts of this women’s movement working together. In December, the #MeToo movement was really picking up, so did you find that that influenced you or prompted you further to speak your truth?
Absolutely. It totally did. I had been reporting on the #MeToo movement for months, and with every person who came forward and just how top of mind that entire movement was, I was encouraged by it in the sense that there’s no reward in being silent. Certainly there’s risk in using your voice, but there’s no reward for staying silent either. So i had to stare down that fear and look to some of the people, again, who inspire me. I left my job before Time’s Up was even Time’s Up. so when Time’s up was kind of coined as this new movement, it just reaffirmed that my story is so many other stories.
Right after Time’s Up launched, during the Golden Globes, a lot of women – a lot of celebrities were talking about your story specifically and bringing that up in conjunction with equal pay and the entire movement. What was that like?
It was unexpected. It was a little out-of-body. I was home watching, like the rest of the world, and my jaw dropped. I think I cried a couple tears, and I was just astonished by what was happening. It wasn’t just one voice, and then it was a couple more voices, but that really has been the whole story since i left – not just actresses or people in Hollywood but just – I mean I get DMs, I get emails, I get messages, I get texts, I get so many comments and questions from girls and women around the world who are stuck or frustrated or pissed off or they need a champion to go out and get this. That’s why I’m sitting here with you today, that’s why I’m partnering with Luna bar is because the more people I can reach, the more change we can make. The more this is top-of-mind for people and stays a part of the conversation, the better.
Have you had anyone else reach out or spoken with anyone since then from the network, such as former colleagues or anyone who was involved in this?
Not in a formal sense, but yeah, that was my work family for 12 years, so I’m still in touch with a handful of people there, of course. And yeah, many of them are cheering me on.
Moving forward, you mention TIme’s Up and your partnership with Luna Bar, what do you see as the next steps for Hollywood, the entertainment industry, the media industry – in closing this gap?
I think it’s gotta be at so many different levels in so many different ways. I think structurally I think that there’s got to be more transparency. Companies have to systematically change the way things have been done. Audit everybody, look – put it all on paper, the statistics don’t lie. And I’d love to see legislation change and the courts get involved like it has in other countries like Iceland, and change will come, hopefully sooner than later. But again, some of that responsibility falls on we the employees, as I said. So we have to talk about what we’re making, we have to ask for what we want. We can’t be afraid as part of this whole puzzle to demand what we should be making.
Legislation feels like a pipe dream, given the people who are doing the legislation, and it’s very easy in that type of climate for women to feel like giving up or taking a break. What would you say to that too? We’re doing a lot.
It’s daunting. It’s daunting, but hopeful. I believe in what’s happening at a grassroots level in many many ways. Look at how people are organizing, I think that’s gonna be key cause you’re right, there’s a lot in the governmental realm of this that may really take forever, but I think the organizing is huge. I’m joining a lot of people in New York for Equal Pay Day on the steps of city hall so I hope more and more people continue to come out and use their voices in that sense and demand as much as they can what should be our reality. Noise is powerful.