Carey Mulligan did not question if she was being paid as much as male co-stars when she began making films - as she felt fortunate just to be working.
"I think I probably felt lucky to be there," she told an audience at the Cannes Film Festival.
"I felt so completely overwhelmed at the beginning of my film career, I felt like 'I should be paying you guys.'"
The British actress said she was now more "mindful" about "being treated fairly".
"I think people won't tolerate it anymore," she said of the gender pay gap that has become a major issue in the entertainment industry and beyond.
"I probably wasn't aware of it before, but now we're all aware and we can be proactive about it."
Mulligan made her name in British film and theatre before going to appear in big-budget movies like The Great Gatsby and the Wall Street sequel.
Looking back now, though, the actress said she felt that her opinions had not been as valued or respected because of her gender.
"Very often I felt my voice didn't matter as much as [those of] the men around me, because I was female," she explained.
"Young actresses coming up now will feel stronger and better because of what's happening at the moment and feel that what they say matters."
Mulligan praised "concrete measures" like the Royal Court theatre's new code of conduct for "laying out how you're expected to behave".
The actress recently performed at the London theatre in a one-woman play that she will take to New York this summer.
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Mulligan is in Cannes to promote Wildlife, an adaptation of Richard Ford's 1990 novel about a marital breakdown in 1960s America.
In the film, co-written and directed by actor Paul Dano, she plays a wife and mother whose marriage disintegrates after she has an affair.
The Mudbound and Suffragette star said she was attracted to the project because it showed a woman who was "allowed to make mistakes".
'Trying to fake it'
"You very rarely see women being unfaithful on screen, even though it happens all the time," she continued.
During a wide-ranging career talk, Mulligan - who has two children with musician husband Marcus Mumford - admitted she disliked watching herself on screen.
"I can see all the bits where I doubted myself and or was trying to fake it," she said, adding that she had once switched off a film of hers on a plane - because she didn't want anyone to see her watching herself.
Mulligan, 32, is the latest actress to participate in the Women in Motion talks on women in cinema that take place annually at the Cannes Film Festival.
Wildlife, which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, will be released in the UK in November.