A. Burr Gets Paid

By Lisa Aggarwal

Have you watched the Hamilton movie? How many times? I’m on my third time already; getting the most out of my Disney + subscription this month, thank you! I cannot get enough of this masterpiece, which I consider the most important Broadway musical of my lifetime. Leslie Odom Jr. earning a Tony for his role as Aaron Burr was a no-brainer. His talent extends beyond the stage, however. He has also been a powerful voice for the theater community in earning their worth. When you think about it, the story of Alexander Hamilton is about money and the creation of our treasury system, one of the many “systems” that exist today.

In a Los Angeles Times article published in late June, Odom Jr. reflects on how the theater industry has historically been devoid of persons of color and how “Hamilton” is quite the exception. Also exceptional is the theater industry itself, which unlike film and TV, has not historically provided residual pay for enduring classics such as this one. He seeks to build generational wealth for himself and castmates by revising that antiquated pay system.

PayScale Inc., which analyzes compensation data, found in its Raise Anatomy Report in 2018 that of the 37 percent of people who have asked for a raise, white men were the most likely to receive one. Reasons vary, but there are steps that you can take to better prepare yourself.

Systemic issues are being brought to light in so many aspects of society, and I’m optimistic that equitable pay for women and persons of color will also be a priority. In the meantime, be sure to advocate for yourself and understand how your job is valued in the external marketplace. Do research on your role and understand how pay is determined. Internet resources are not foolproof but can be a good starting point. If you are changing jobs, negotiating your starting pay will establish your baseline for years to come. Many states, in an attempt to rectify historical pay discrimination/underpayment, have laws that prohibit an employer from asking for previous salary information. It is crucial to ask for what you believe your experience warrants in terms of pay. It really does start with you, because we don’t get what we don’t ask for. After all, Hamilton “got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter.”

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