Dr. Nir Tzachar, PhD. on October 31st, 2017

The topics of gender equality and equal compensation have sparked debates around the globe – and rightfully so. Hollywood has become a major target for accusations of gender inequality, as ageing male actors seem to land many more roles than older actresses do, not to mention the compensation gap. But is this accusation valid? We dove into the data to find out.

We’ve watched many Hollywood starlets go to extreme lengths to remain young and glowing, in order to stay in the limelight. Some succeed in holding onto their youthful appearance, while others become nearly unrecognizable through plastic surgery, and end up serving as lessons of “what not to do.”

Why do woman, so much more than many men, take such risks to stay young? Although all actors – male and female – feel the pressure to hold onto their youthful appearance, women in Hollywood seem to feel that pressure much more intensely than men do.

Since we deal with so much entertainment industry data here at Vault, we wondered if it might be possible to quantify an anti-aging bias against women in Hollywood.

To keep our analysis as simple as possible, we focused on the top of the Hollywood heap: actors and actresses who’ve been nominated for Academy Awards. The data represents over 2500 motion pictures.


Several things jump out here:

  • In general, a significant gap between the sexes exists.
  • Men experience the heights of their careers between the ages of 25 to 45.
  • Women experience their heights between the ages of 25 to 35 – giving them ten fewer years in the spotlight.
  • Some women’s careers experience a renaissance between the ages of 65 and 70, when they may win an Academy Award for a grandmotherly role.
  • Women receive significantly lower average compensation than men do, relative to a film’s budget.

In short, if we are of the understanding the bigger budgets means bigger pay days then these stats reveal that even Academy Award-nominated actresses are consistently paid less than their male counterparts – and that their pay experiences a sharp drop when they reach age 35, a full decade before male actors experience a similar drop. This appears to be clear evidence of a Hollywood-wide age bias against female actors. We wondered if this bias applied to all genres of film, or if certain genres might be more gender-biased than others:


Perhaps the most damning insight is that aging actresses are most likely to receive equal pay, and consistently find work, in the animation genre. In other words, only voiceover roles deviate from Hollywood’s overall gender-biased norm, unlike live-action roles in virtually every other genre.


The above data demonstrates a clear and pervasive bias against aging female actresses and female actresses in general in terms of compensation and career opportunities. Still, one important question remains: Does this bias originate with Hollywood producers and directors – or does the blame lie with audiences who vote with their wallets? Join us next time for Part II: The Problem with the Oscar.