Laura Dern began working as an actress when she was 11 years old. Even though she was a child, she noticed a lack of gender equality. Men and women were not treated the same in the workplace. And they typically didn’t speak up about it. “As a female growing up with strong-voiced women, I watched them in their own lives not use their voice nor think they were entitled,” the Big Little Lies star says.

Raised by actor parents, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern, she would also observe how her mother and father were treated differently in the industry. “I saw how hard my mom struggled as a single parent and actress in the workplace environment,” explains Dern. “And I personally suffered because she wasn’t allowed to take her child to work. So I was away from my mother for months at a time.”

As she entered adulthood, Laura Dern continued to see the gender inequality in how men and women were treated. “I have experienced it until very recently when the community around me began asking for males and females to be treated fairly and equally for the same amount of work,” she says.

In fact, women still earn roughly 80 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. “To be very honest, I never experienced equality. Often the male performer made 60 to 80 percent more than me or other female leads. That was just the way it was,” Dern says. “The reply was: ‘we gave our budgets to the guy and now there is nothing left. And if you don’t want to take this, we are going to get somebody else. Because a lot of women need this job.’” […]