For her latest role in “Miss Sloane,” two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain spent time in Washington, D.C., investigating what it’s like to be a woman in the male-dominated political sphere. To prepare for the film, in which she plays Elizabeth Sloane, a successful and crafty lobbyist, Chastain did her research, reading up on lobbyists’ careers and shadowing a female lobbyist on Capitol Hill.
“I just started Googling ‘successful female lobbyists’ and did as much research as I could,” she told Business Insider in a recent interview. “I put a list of people together. I met around 11 women on a weekend and I shadowed someone during a fundraiser. I shadowed someone who lobbied on Capitol Hill. It was very, very helpful.” Chastain said it was important to learn from female lobbyists about gender politics, which are central to the film.
It’s no secret that D.C. is a boys’ club. Women currently constitute just 19.4% of Congress, 20% of the U.S. Senate, and 19.3% of the U.S. House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Those percentages tend to be slightly higher at the state level, but still, for the most part, remain under 25%.
At Fairygodboss, where our mission is to improve the workplace for women by increasing transparency, we’ve found that government is not among the best ranked industries for female employees. We analyzed a sample of nearly 5,000 reviews in 30 industries (drawing from over 20,000 user submissions of reviews, salary and benefit tips) -- and we found that women in government rated their overall work experience at approximately 3.3.
In addition, just over 50% said they think their employer treats men and women are treated equally (this percentage was below that of most other industries.)
Chastain said that her character -- who is fully immersed in this male-dominated world -- develops a no-frills disposition. She has “no sensuality to her, she doesn't enjoy fashion, she pays someone to buy her clothes and style it. Her sex life, there's no foreplay, it's something that is just ‘get it done as quick as possible and let's move on to the next thing.’ I think that went into how I held my body, my voice, everything,” she told Business Insider.
The actress, who said she will be attending the Women’s March on Washington in January, also spoke about the gender wage gap, pointing out that while its prevalence Hollywood tends to get a lot of media attention, it’s important to recognize that the issue affects women across all industries. “No matter what, I'm going to ask for more,” she revealed to Business Insider. “I'm going to ask what is correct, what I deserve, especially in relation to male actors [...] We need to reevaluate that women who ask for a pay raise or ask for a promotion — it’s actually an okay thing. It's okay to be ambitious, it's okay to be over-prepared. I guess going back to ‘Miss Sloane,’ she's the example of a woman who does all of those things.”
Chastain added that while she’s lucky to be well-compensated for her work, when she’s considering a job prospect, she makes sure it’s not for a production in which a male actor will be making seven times her salary.
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