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February 12, 2015

Scene and Heard: Tina Brown

“All these women are doing incredible things in this world. All I did was get fired!” said Amy Pascal, the former co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, as she and journalist Tina Brown met on stage at the Women in the World conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, February 11. Six days after Sony announced Pascal would step down from her role, the executive sat for her first public interview with Brown at the St. Regis Hotel to talk about hacking, gender pay disparities, and free speech. Brown began the chat by telling Pascal, “You’ve been through something so extraordinary in the last couple of months that none of us can hardly imagine…” But Pascal quickly interrupted to respond, “No you cannot, I promise.” On a night dedicated to spotlighting global female leadership, Brown said Pascal decided to travel to San Francisco to talk publicly about Sony because, “the timing was good. And in [Pascal’s] home town, it’s a little too hot right now.”

Brown asked Pascal to reflect on the moment she realized her inbox had been hacked. The exec answered, “First of all, I ran this company and I had to worry about everybody who was really scared. People were scared, all of their social security was out there.” Pascal said she kept thinking about what else might have been captured. “But nagging in the back of my mind, and I kept calling [the IT department], going, “‘They don’t have our emails, right? Tell me they don’t have our emails.’ ‘No, no, no, no!'” But of course it turns out that emails were hacked. “That was a bad moment because you know what you write in emails.”

Pascal’s correspondence included disparaging comments about actors, directors, and public figures made during private conversations that became public with the hack. Pascal responded, “That was horrible… As a woman, I figured that what I did was control how everybody felt about themselves and about me. That’s how I did my job. That’s kind of the way that a lot of us act as leaders. There was this horrible moment that I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do. I couldn’t protect anyone. … It was horrible because that’s how I did my job, and it was also strangely freeing.

Brown asked Pascal about the wage  gap between top actors and actresses that became apparent when Sony budgets were made public. “These actresses are getting paid less, they don’t realize they’re getting paid less. Explain,” said Brown. Pascal responded that she ran a business at Sony and said she’d pay people less if they wanted to work for less. “I don’t call them up and go, ‘Can I give you some more?’” she added. “The truth is that what you have to do is not work for less money. They should walk away,” she said. “People should know what they’re worth and say, ‘No.’”

By Jennifer McCullum

Pictured: Tina Brown at the Women in the World Conference held at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco.
Photo by: Drew Altizer

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