How A Deodorant Campaign Helped Samira Wiley Realize She Wasn’t Woke Enough

We all know there is a gender wage gap. We know that, on average, women earn 74 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s a 26% disparity. But did you know that in Canada, women are paid less than men in 469 out of 500 occupations? That in Ontario, it takes almost 16 months of work to match what men make in 12 months? That immigrant women face a 34% gap while Indigenous women face a 43% gap?

This is why Secret Deodorant just launched their “I’d Rather Get Paid” campaign—to call attention to a distressing problem that we, as a society, have just come to accept. With a slew of pathbreaking women in tow—including Samira Wiley, Sophia Bush, Catt Sadler and Swin Cash—and a song that might just get stuck in your head, the campaign highlights the inefficacy of slogans and hashtags when it comes to bringing about actual change. “I’d rather make 20 more cents, and get the same paycheck as gents; than hear a song with a message in it, that makes me feel better for about three minutes,” it goes.

But since a catchy song isn’t really going to cut it, Secret has partnered with LadiesGetPaid.com, which offers access to a free toolkit outlining strategies for salary negotiation and ways in which organizations can advance change. Next year, they will also be announcing partnerships with local Canadian organizations to provide resources to women within their own communities.

FASHION caught up with The Handmaid’s Tale star Samira Wiley to learn more about her involvement with #IdRatherGetPaid.

What made you want to get involved with this campaign?
When I first heard about it, I just thought it’s completely up my alley, and dear to my heart. Growing up, my mom had the exact same job title as my dad but didn’t get paid the same amount. That really sat with me, this false idea that me and my gender were not enough, that we were not equal. So through this [campaign] I’m getting to honour that little girl who was so confused by this.

There’s a line in the campaign song that goes: “Moral support is not financial independence.” In our social media age where a like or a retweet counts as “support,” what does true support look like in the fight for this cause?
True support is scary for some people because it means putting yourself on the line, putting some skin in the game. But I think speaking out in your own life, to the person sitting right next to you, is a good way to start. Even if you’re a man, start having these discussions at work. There’s so much more than can be done when it’s not just women being the champions. We need men on the other side too.

There’s an added layer of discrimination if you’re a woman of colour, an immigrant, an indigenous woman. Why do you think it’s vital to highlight the way the wage gap widens if you’re a racial or ethnic minority, and do you think people are aware of it?
People are aware generally, like they’ll nod their heads in agreement. But in terms of specifics or statistics, in terms of the people actually affected, people don’t push themselves to really see it. Even I was surprised looking at some of the differences. It has to be presented all together so that we can see that this is what’s happening. It has to be a part of the message.

Equal pay is an important step towards equal respect and ultimately, true gender equality. In what ways do you think the wage gap helps uphold patriarchal systems and societies?
It goes all the way back to when we’re young. This is why people need to go to therapy. It’s ingrained in us. You think you’re less than, when you know the difference between how much your mom gets paid and how much your dad gets paid. It shapes how we walk through the world and how we see ourselves. If you’re a man, it gives you a sense of superiority.

It’s more serious than just money. It has to do with self-esteem and self-worth. And it can only be better for the entire society to feel purpose and worth, it shouldn’t be divided down gender lines.

Do you feel like our post-#MeToo era, which has made us all more conscious about gender dynamics and imbalances, is the perfect time to fight this fight?
Yes and no. On the one hand, it’s about time. On the other, this should have happened years ago. But people will always oppose change, they’ll say “people aren’t ready” or “it’s too soon.” But there are also people saying “this should’ve happened 50 years ago.” So yes, now’s the time. But 30 years ago, when I was a little girl, was also the time. Right now, there are people listening in a different way. I don’t know why; I know I’m aware that this is monumental, and I’m happy to be alive right now and to be a voice for this. And hopefully future generations, my kids and nephews and nieces, won’t have the same questions and confusions that I had as a child.

Was there anything you learned about the wage gap over the course of this campaign that surprised you?
Every stat I read about, in my mind I was like, I think I know about this. I have this to say, I have that to say [about it]. But looking at materials and the numbers of what’s happening, it was eye-opening and shocking, especially to a person who thinks she’s “in the know.” There’s so much information people need to get their hands on, so that they know what we’re making such a “fuss” about.

Lastly, you shoot The Handmaid’s Tale here in Toronto. Anything you’re looking forward to doing over the winter?
It’s my third year of being here for six-seven months at a time, and I still love doing touristy stuff (laughs). I want to go to the CN Tower, I haven’t hung off it yet. I love the hot peameal bacon sandwich at St Lawrence Market. I’ve always wanted to go ice skating in Nathan Phillips Square. I love ice skating! I’ve been wanting my wife to do that with me for the past three years.

Well hopefully this will be your year.
Thank you! I hope so!