When 'Lean In' Meets 'The Wolf of Wall Street'
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The office is political.
By Libby Coleman
“I like money.”
Hello, three words that almost anyone — those who don’t have it, don’t need it or can’t have enough — could say truthfully. Who doesn’t, right? But when a woman says it, the comment might strike a more orthodox, illiberal person (man) as … weird. Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn goes for it in Equity anyway. In a circle full of women, that is.
The cross between Lean In and The Wolf of Wall Street opens nationwide on August 26, with its fair share of office politics, romance, backstabbings, thrills and cold hard cash. OZY spoke with Sarah Megan Thomas, producer-star of Equity, about her research for the film, what it’s like to be in finance abroad and what Hollywood has in common with Wall Street. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
OZY: What’s the problem you’re hoping to solve with this movie?
Sarah Megan Thomas: It’s not necessarily that I’m trying to solve a specific problem. I love to tell stories about strong women that haven’t been told before. My goal with this movie was to create a thriller, a Wall Street thriller, that shows the women’s side that we haven’t seen before. But then after you leave the movie theater, then you start talking about the issues, realize this was written by, directed by, starring women. Why aren’t there more like this? Hopefully it’ll show Hollywood writ large that women can be profitable on-screen.
OZY: Do you think this is a total cautionary tale about working on Wall Street and gender inequality, or is it more complex than that? Who needs to change, and how?
SMT: It’s a great question and a complex question. I think talking about the problem and bringing it up is starting the dialogue to help create change. I don’t think a lot of it is overt or intentional. Certain professions are boys clubs; it’s hard to change that. I don’t think anyone’s trying to be evil. I think women have children if they choose, and that inherently complicates the work environment.
OZY: When you interviewed women for the script, did anything particularly stand out?
SMT: How some women really do help other women, while others feel that there’s only one spot. Some say, “My female boss pulled me up and was amazing.” A few others said, “I don’t know if my female boss was pushing enough for me.” We found out in some instances, the older women were actually trying to help the younger ones, but behind closed doors, so the younger women never saw that help.
OZY: Do you think this is an American movie or a movie that people can relate to in many other cultures and countries? Did you speak to women from the financial world living abroad?
SMT: I actually did. I spoke to a senior female Wall Streeter currently working in China. She said it’s easier in some places not in America for women to have high-up positions because the help is cheaper. She had a cook, a driver and a live-in nanny, and it was much more affordable than in the U.S. I think it relates to people everywhere, because it’s really about women in the workforce and how far ambitious, competitive women will go to get what they want in their careers.
OZY: What are some surprising similarities between Wall Street and Hollywood?
SMT: A couple stand out to me — the first is hiding pregnancies. I was surprised to learn women on Wall Street felt they had to hide their pregnancies as long as possible, especially if they were up for promotion or a bonus. As an actress, if you’re visibly pregnant, you can’t get hired for most roles.
The other thing I find fascinating is that women on Wall Street, if they have a year that doesn’t work, a year where their numbers aren’t high or a deal goes bad — it’s harder for them to bounce back. I think that’s very similar with women in Hollywood — a female director finds it difficult to get another feature after a bad one.