‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Star Ellen Pompeo on the Gender Pay Gap: Women ‘Have to Point the Finger At Ourselves’

Ellen Pompeo in Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2005)
ABC

Actress Ellen Pompeo, who recently inked a historic $20 million deal with ABC for her longtime starring role on Grey’s Anatomy, says women can’t just “point the finger at other people” to solve a perceived pay disparity.

“I’m grateful that it was received in the way in which I intended it to be, which was as an empowering story for women and to also be very honest about my faults and my shortcomings,” Pompeo said in a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “Because I think that there’s a lot of blame, especially right now. People are blaming people. There’s a lot of finger pointing, but there’s less people owning up to their side of things. And I wanted to sort of do a truthful interview and talk about my road to my own empowerment and how I got there, but also mistakes I’ve made along the way.”

“As women, you know, it’s not only about what’s done to us or what’s not given to us. It’s what don’t we ask for,” Pompeo explained. “You know, how much of it is [it] isn’t given to us, or is it that we don’t ask? I think that as much as we can point the finger at other people and [say], ‘You don’t give us or you don’t treat us fairly,’ We also have to point the finger at ourselves and say, ‘Did we ask? Did we step up and have the uh, gumption, to ask for what a man would?’

“We have to own part of it,” she stressed. “And sometimes we’re too shy; we’re too afraid to be seen as difficult to really speak our mind.”

Pompeo opened up publicly last month about her salary in a cover story for the Hollywood Reporter, in which she shared that she made much less than her former Grey’s co-star Patrick Dempsey. Pompeo said that she repeatedly asked to have their salaries negotiated together.

“They could always use him as leverage against me — ‘We don’t need you; we have Patrick’ — which they did for years. I don’t know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals,” Pompeo told the outlet. “There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Meredith Grey. They wouldn’t give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn’t I? It’s my show; I’m the No. 1.”

Now the 48-year-old star is the highest-earning actress on a TV drama, bringing in a whopping $575,000 per episode on the long-running ABC medical drama over the next two years.

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @JeromeEHudson

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