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Michael Sheen says he would take pay cut to achieve gender pay equality

Hollywood actor Michael Sheen has said he would “absolutely” take a pay cut if it meant being paid the same as a female actress, as he attended a gender equality march.

Stars, politicians of all ranks and parties and campaigners stood shoulder to shoulder outside the Palace of Westminster in London as they took part in the March4Women rally.

Sheen, 49, said equal rights were “incredibly important to me” at Care International’s sixth annual march marking 100 years since some women got the vote and ahead of International Women’s Day.

Asked if he would take less money for a role if it meant equal pay between him and a female co-star, he said: “I think it’s absolutely imperative that no matter what the industry, no matter what the profession, that people should be paid the same for doing the same work. That’s just a given.

“We’re not going to change anything unless that happens, so absolutely.”

Marchers gather outside the Palace of Westminster (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Marchers gather outside the Palace of Westminster (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

His comments were echoed by activist Bianca Jagger, who was cheered as she called out for the gender pay gap to be closed before the marchers set off on Sunday.

Asked about the popularity of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, The Queen and Frost/Nixon actor said: “There’s clearly a moment happening, but it’s a moment in a series of moments over history.

“And we have to make sure that this doesn’t just remain a moment. And that everyone, men and women, both make sure that this goes on into the future to make permanent change.”

Michael Sheen stands behind Helen Pankhurst at the start of the March4Women (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Michael Sheen stands behind Helen Pankhurst at the start of the March4Women (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He added: “We have look at what the systemic challenges are. Not just if there are individual monsters who have done terrible things.

“We have to each of us look at what our own individual responsibility is.

“I have to look at how I’ve contributed to the challenges for women in society at the moment and do what I can to change that.”

Wearing sashes with the suffragettes’ famous slogan Deeds Not Words, hundreds of supporters held aloft banners reading Bloody Difficult Woman, Courage Is A Muscle and Men Of Quality Do Not Fear Equality before setting off on the historic route to Trafalgar Square.

Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, said “right across the board in every sphere there’s work to be done” to ensure gender equality.

She said: “I think we are living in a world where there are some dinosaurs that are trying to take us back.

“And there are those that are moving together, trying to say ‘that’s not the way we want this world to look’, and moving us forward, and looking at issues around inequality and naming prejudice and all sorts of forms of entitlement, that just shouldn’t be part of the scene of the 21st century.”

She said right now there was a “great energy” and that “day after day after day there’s a media story saying we are not going to tolerate this anymore”.

Asked about US President Donald Trump’s recent admission that he does not consider himself a feminist, she said: “It’s irrelevant. I think what we need to be focusing on is the number of men and women who are supportive of change and of equality and all the beautiful and wonderful things that happen.

“And we need to fight against people like him who represent old ideas, dated ideas, ideas that actually put people into boxes and don’t allow people to thrive. Why should we allow that?”

“Proud feminist” Sadiq Khan said he could not understand why anyone would not want to be the same.

In reference to Mr Trump’s reluctance to identify as one he said: “I think if you’re in a position of power and influence and you think it’s wrong that women get paid less than men, you think it’s wrong there’s discrimination against women still, you think it’s wrong that simply by virtue of being born a boy you have more chances than a girl, you should be a feminist.”

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