Aging rockers, has-been radio personalities, and ex-action stars get paid more than A-list actresses. That’s one major takeaway from Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top-paid celebrities this year.
Two things were apparent from this year’s list: women make up only 16% of the top-paid celebrities in the world, and the ones who do make the list are significantly younger than the men. The average age for men on the list was 42– for women, it was 36. If you take out Judge Judy, who at 72 is an outlier by about 15 years, that average drops to just over 33.
In other words: the pay gap is alive and well, even among the richest celebrities, and while male stars are adept at turning youthful success into a lifetime of fame, female celebrity is far more delicate. The average age for men on the 2015 Forbes list does not include the collected ages of The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac, all ’70s era bands who made the list (Fleetwood Mac includes two women)– if the ages of these men had been included, the average age for men on the list would have been significantly higher. Older guys like Jimmy Buffett (68) Jackie Chan (61) and Howard Stern (61) make the list, but Meryl Streep (66) and Madonna (56) don’t.
The 16 women on the list earned a combined $409 million, while the combined male earnings topped $4.3 billion. More importantly, many of the women on the list tend to be young and beautiful, while older stars are simply not making the cut. Of the 16 women on the list, only a quarter are over the age of 35 (Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, Ellen Degeneres and Judge Judy.) The other twelve are much younger, including Jennifer Lawrence (24), Taylor Swift (25) and Lady Gaga (29). Almost half of the 16 women on the list are under 30.
To be clear–it’s not Forbes’s fault there are so few women on their list, they’re just the messenger here. This year they expanded their annual list of top-paid celebrities to include international icons, and restricted it to on-camera talent (which might be why Shonda Rhimes and Oprah aren’t on it). They assembled the list by measuring earnings from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015, then subtracted management fees and taxes. That sounds like a fair methodology for determining which celebrities are making the most money.
And yet, women are notably absent. Lots of women who would ordinarily be on the list seem to be taking a little break this year. As Forbes’s Natalie Robehmed explains, in her post about why there are so few women on the list:
Of course, there’s also the fact that there’s a pay gap between men and women in most professions, and Hollywood isn’t immune. As Robehmed points out, it’s no coincidence that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams only saw 7% of the profits for American Hustle, while the male actors got 9%. Women are also less likely to be the main character, which means smaller paychecks, and in other countries the gap is even worse– in Bollywood, actresses make about a sixth of what their male co-stars make.
And yet it’s impossible to ignore the age trend at work here. Among the richest celebrities, all the women young, beautiful, and at the top of their game right now– Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Sofia Vergara are all in the prime of their careers. Not so with the richest male celebrities– Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t been on primetime TV in years, and Adam Sandler hit his stride in the early 2000s.
In other words: when it comes to top-paid celebrities, the age gap might be just as important as the wage gap.