Next Step for Women’s Rights: Improving the Wage Gap

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Women make 77 cents to a man's dollar. (Photo illustration by Isabel Frias)

By CATHERINE ATHERTON
Staff Writer
Published: March 24, 2015

When millions of viewers turn on events such as the Academy Awards, the two main points are who’s wearing what and who wins each category: we’re not focused on political agendas. Thus, I have always been strongly opposed to celebrities exploiting the occasion of award ceremonies to express personal beliefs or make political statements, and believe a simple “thank you” suffices. However, as Patricia Arquette took the podium after winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood and spoke the words, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” I started cheering in my seat along with J-Lo and Meryl Streep. Although the necessary conversation of wage inequality was sparked by an acceptance speech, it is finally time that we draw attention to this issue as the first step in improving gender equality in the United States of America.

While Arquette’s speech was poorly worded, and it is clear she is a better actress than speech writer, the general message of her speech was both positive and empowering. When Arquette stated, “It’s time for women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for to fight for us now,” it seems she forgot that women are included in the demographics “gay people” and “people of color,” and also that the fights for racial and marriage equality are equally as important as the fight for women’s rights and should not be sidelined. However, as the media continues to rip Arquette apart in saying that her speech was exclusionary and oblivious to other demographics experiencing inequality, I think it is more important to focus on the issue at its core and Arquette’s positive intention of improving gender equality.

Although people scoffed at Arquette’s speech on equal pay because Hollywood actresses are incredibly wealthy, is it important to note that nearly all women face a pay gap regardless of their occupation, income and race. In fact, other Hollywood actresses have experienced pay gaps: information released from the SONY hack revealed that Charlize Theron initially received $10 million less than her less experienced co-star Chris Hemsworth in “The Huntsman.” Additionally,  Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams discovered they were both given 7 percent of “American Hustle’s” profits while their co-stars Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale were both given 9 percent. So instead of rolling your eyes at Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez for applauding wage equality while dripping in diamonds, everyone should be joining in their applause  and focusing on improving the nationwide issue of gender inequality.

The United States is ranked 65th out of 142 countries for wage gap and the average women makes 78 cents to every man’s dollar, according to the World Economic Forum. Although the feminist movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s made huge strides towards putting more women in the workforce, women now work equally as much as men and deserve equal pay. As improving the gender gap weighs heavily on the White House, President Obama must first fix his internal workforce. Obama has stated that “the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” and furthermore, that it’s “an embarrassment. It is wrong.” However, he forgot to include that White House employees experience one of the worst wage gaps in the country at 13.3 percent and women staffers receive an average of over $10,000 less per year than males. Once President Obama can decrease the gender gap within the White House, Congress must then direct their energy towards improving wage equality for women nationwide.

The feminist movement in the 1960’s got women in the workforce. Now that women occupy 47 percent of the workforce, it is time that the 73 million working women in the United States receive equal pay as working men. While Patricia Arquette’s speech may not have been perfect, any stride in the fight for equal pay counts and should be encouraged, not criticized. It is time for all Americans to join the fight for income equality and shrink the gender gap in America once and for all.