Oscar speeches are, for the most part, pretty boring. There’s only so much a star can say during the 50 or 60 seconds they’re allowed, before the “shut up” music swells. This year, however, Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette chose to make the most of her minute, and used her speech as a platform to call for wage equality for women.
(Photo Credit: Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr)
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody’s equal rights,” said Arquette. “It is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Famous folks in the audience, including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, applauded wildly. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Arquette’s speech is that it’s still necessary in the year 2015.
ThinkProgress points out that women still make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that those numbers are worse for women of color: black women make 64 cents and Latina women make 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns.
“It’s so insidious. Women in America, we act like we have equality when the truth is we don’t,” said Arquette in a recent interview with The Guardian. “With the Sony hack, it was recognized that those actresses worked every bit as hard, they were just as valuable commodities, they had won awards, they had huge followings and big audiences yet Jennifer [Lawrence] was paid less than the men? You could argue that it’s like that across the board. Wage difference between men and women is real. It’s not just Hollywood: women judges, doctors, lawyers make less than men. The world is sexist.”
It is, as she said, insidious. For example, PayScale’s report on the gender wage gap showed that much of the difference between male and female pay comes down to occupational choice. There are fewer female executives and scientists and neurosurgeons, and more female home health aides and kindergarten teachers and social workers. Women are more likely to choose jobs that give back to society instead of ones that earn big money, partly because they’re socialized to think of others, and partly because those same jobs offer the flexibility to raise a family — and in a country with zero weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave and no financial assistance for child care, flexibility is essential if women want to have children.
Further, as Arquette points out, if women lean in and choose less flexible, higher-paying jobs, they’re not necessarily out of danger. They can fall behind the salary curve by taking time out to raise children. Even childless women aren’t off the hook: they can lose ground by failing to negotiate salary, or by negotiating in “the wrong way” and being perceived as pushy, when a man would be lauded for assertiveness.
Long story short, the gender gap is still a real problem, and it deserves our attention. Talking about it publicly is the first step.
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