Reese Witherspoon
Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Reese Witherspoon and American TV Personality Gayle King are perhaps the most prominent women in their industries. This week InStyle put the two trailblazers in the same room for a celebrity-fuelled interview. The result? A conversation on women empowerment. It comes after the award-winning actress recently appeared in season two of Morning Wars, an Apple TV+ series that navigates the #MeToo movement (and its aftermath) in the television industry.

Witherspoon serves as an executive producer on the acclaimed series but as she discussed with King, it wasn’t easy to break through an industry normally dominated by men. The women were speaking about gender biases and the assumption that women shouldn’t or don’t understand business agreements.

Gayle King
Gayle King. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

“Actresses, they’re infantilised,” Witherspoon told King. “People don’t talk to them about money or deals; they say, “Oh, don’t worry about that, we have that.” Not empowering someone with information is a form of control. So at a certain point in my career, I kind of took back the reins. I finally picked up the phone and said, “I’m not excited about this one part of my deal,” and my agent was like, “Well, let’s change it.”

In 2016 Witherspoon founded production company, Hello Sunshine, which brought Morning Wars and Big Little Lies to the small screen. Just this year the actress sold it for $900 million USD (or just over $1 billion AUD). According to Witherspoon, the negotiations took two months but she recalled crying when she received the cheque.

“I cried. I cried, and I thought about my grandma, and I cried more,” she said. “I thought about all of the women who haven’t gotten these opportunities, and I just feel really lucky that I’m standing in a path that other women created for me. [Starts crying] Sorry.”

Speaking on women empowerment in business, the 45-year-old later added,  “Let’s just be clear: Until fairly recently, no one was listening to anything a woman said, and then with the emergence of social media, women have a voice that is undeniable… They also consume much more media than men. When you’re talking in terms of my business, it only makes sense to cater to an audience that consumes more than anyone, right? The economics are just so empirical that you can’t not listen to women anymore. Enough is enough.”