Oprah Winfrey detailed moments in her career when she had to fight for equal pay as she accepted The Hollywood Reporter’s Empowerment Award at an event on Tuesday.
The media mogul told audience members at the publication’s inaugural Empowerment in Entertainment luncheon in Los Angeles that higher-ups at a Baltimore news organization where she worked rejected her request to be paid the same amount as her male counterpart.
“I was told that because I was a single woman who didn’t have a mortgage and I didn’t have kids, that I was not entitled to earn the same kind of money as the man who was sitting next to me, doing the same thing,” she said, adding that her employers didn’t understand her value.
Winfrey later described fighting for higher pay for women who worked on the Chicago set of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the 1980s after she had received a raise herself.
“I asked that my producers, who, incidentally, were all female, I asked that they be given a pay increase,” she said, adding that a male executive initially rejected her request by saying, “They’re only girls.”
She continued, “I took a deep breath in that moment and said, ‘Either they’re going to get raises or I’m going to sit down.’”
Prior to Winfrey’s speech, singer Selena Gomez introduced 20 students chosen to participate in The Hollywood Reporter’s new inclusion program, the Young Executives Fellowship, which “aims to create a pipeline for future leaders in film and television,” the publication stated.
As part of the initiative, each student will take part in a competitive two-year program that will include mentoring, according to THR. Every student will be gifted a laptop, and the program will provide two full-ride scholarships to Howard University and Emerson University, The Associated Press reported.
Winfrey spoke directly to the students at the beginning of her speech, saying, “The trajectory of your life is about to change.”