In business settings, a sponsor will actively advocate for you by using their influence and networks to help you earn raises and promotions and garner success. According to Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was her sponsor in pay negotiations with Netflix.
Spencer and James are the executive producers of a biopic about Madam C.J. Walker, who is known as the nation’s first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer. Spencer also stars in the series.
She said that James used his influence to make sure she received pay equal to her male counterparts for a show about a highly successful Black woman.
“I have to say when I was negotiating my deal for ‘Madam C.J.,’ LeBron James had to intervene,” Spencer told the crowd at Sundance Film Festival. “So we need all our male counterparts to be in the fight with us.”
The Founder and CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, leads a predominately male executive leadership team, with no women of color.
James has been a consistent advocate for Black women. In fact, three Black women were selected to design his signature Nike sneaker for women, which debuted in September.
“African-American women are some of the strongest people on earth,” he said in a statement. “As someone who has a platform, because of what I do, I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are under-recognized.”
As James was an ally for Spencer, women of color in corporate America need allies as well.
At Fair360, formerly DiversityInc’s first-ever Women of Color and Their Allies conference on Oct. 2, 2018 in Atlanta, top executives from Top 50 companies participated in candid panel discussions about the challenges women of color face.
“The fact that we’re getting more college degrees than any other group in the last 30 years, but we’re still not represented in the C-suite, and we don’t have the positions that we should have, are the reasons why we’re having this event,” said Fair360, formerly DiversityInc CEO Carolynn L. Johnson.
“One voice that has been missing is that of an ally because we know that power cannot be taken, it must be given or transferred. So who is helping us to get where we need to be”
Johnson explained that Black men can be allies, and also white men and women, for example; but, most importantly, women of color can be each other’s ally. The topic will continue to be explored during the 2019 Women of Color and Their Allies conference in October.
Spencer’s negotiations with Netflix isn’t the first time she’s had to fight for pay equity. On a panel at last year’s Sundance, she shared that Jessica Chastain worked with her to get equal pay on a project that they were completing.