‘Women Do More Work In Dramas But Men Get Paid More,’ – Ushna Shah

Pay disparity or gender pay gap is one of the most pressing issues that exist in almost all the professional fields of the world. Conversations about the unfair pay scale between men and women, despite them putting in the same amount of work in their designated fields, have been happening for years now. It is yet another form of sexism that continues to prevail, unregulated, in the world.

The most consistently functioning part of the Pakistani entertainment industry is the drama industry. Ever since private channels have taken over television in Pakistan, there has been no dearth of dramas being produced. And with Pakistani dramas mostly revolving around the women, one would think that the pay disparity would not be as rampant in this industry where the female actors are known to be doing most of the work on-screen.

Apparently, that is not the case as in a recent interview given to Something Haute, the talented actress Ushna Shah talked about the pay disparity that exists in the field.

The gap

While talking about the sexism that has become a normalized part of everyday life in the industry, to the point that it isn’t even considered inappropriate for many people, Ushna pointed out how despite dramas in Pakistan revolving around women, the female actors don’t get the same level of money from it.

“There is a dearth of heroes in the industry. The number of heroes that have ‘clicked’ with the audience is less as compared to the heroines. And although the amount of work those heroes do is less than what we women put it, they get paid more.”

Ushna explained that Pakistani dramas revolve the women so it is only obvious that the women put in more work.

“Women always put in more work because the dramas revolve around us. If a woman has 400 scenes in the drama, the man will have 300 something. However, the men end up getting paid more on a daily basis.”

Further talking about the statistics, Ushna clarified that if a senior or more popular female actor is working in a project alongside a less established male actor, then the female actress definitely gets paid more. However, a side-by-side comparison of actors and actresses that are exact contemporaries reveals that men get a bigger paycheque than the women.

“And that’s unfair,” Ushna stated.

Conversation needed

The conversation about pay disparity had happened in Pakistan years ago. When the astonishing wage gaps between female superstars and male superstars were revealed in Hollywood and Bollywood, Pakistani actors had to answer the same questions. Who does end up getting paid more in a project that consists of both senior actors and newer actors?

An article published in Dawn Images had posed this question to Humayun Saeed, Mahira Khan, and Atiqa Odho. Humayun Saeed and Atiqa Odho had said that an actor’s individual pay depends on their seniority and star power. They demand a number that they know they have earned because of what they are bringing to the project. Mahira Khan, on the other hand, had replied that for her acting is a passion. She puts more energies in negotiating fees when it comes to commercials and endorsements and what she demands as an actor is entirely her prerogative.

But, that was five years ago. Since then the situation has changed with the developments that Pakistani cinema and Pakistani drama industries have gone through. Television dramas continue to get bigger as they pull in high ratings and a huge number of online views. A new conversation about the position of actors that work mostly on television screens is definitely needed. It really is unfair to all the actors who put in more work in projects as they hop from one set to the other, and yet they don’t get the deserved pay for it because someone higher up decides they are not worthy of it.

Maybe Ushna Shah’s comment can be the starting point of this conversation. We would definitely love to see that.


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