Business of Men

Patricia Arquette’s Oscar Speech call for equal pay and rights – why the backlash?


At the recent Oscar Awards ceremony, Patricia Arquette won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, for her role in Boyhood.  She used her acceptance speech to call for equal pay and rights for women.

The audience lapped it up, with prominent actress Meryl Streep seen cheering vigorously. Later, Hilary Clinton said, “I think we all cheered at Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars, because she’s right—it’s time to have wage equality,”

What I found sad about the episode was what happened next.

Patricia Arquette took a stand at a very public event and of course the press loved it. Unfortunately she couldn’t rely on a script when she was being interviewed about her words and that’s where she went wrong.

Her words were interpreted as suggesting that gay people and ‘people of colour’ have achieved equality while women have not.  She appeared to be implying that we women have fought for your (LBGT and people of colour) rights so now it’s time you repaid the favour.

It didn’t take long before she was being attacked on social media and in news journals for how she had presented her message, and some of the loudest attacks came from other women.

Patricia Arquette has a valid point. Women in the US are paid just 77% of what their male counterparts earn for doing the same job. The White House says “The pay gap is even greater for African-American and Latina women, with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man.”

You might not like the way she expressed herself but there is no doubt that the woman really cares about pay equality for all women.  One look at her Twitter feed will tell you that.

So with so much support, why isn’t it happening?

I think that sometimes people look for an opportunity to tear down someone who has the courage to take a stand. I also think that others build a hype around the incident to distract from the actual content of the message.  Translate this scenario to the work place and think about how many important and future-altering messages might be being missed.

Surely we can listen to the intention behind the message rather than pulling apart the choice of words used to carry it. Surely we don’t need to cloud a real message with a smokescreen to deflect attention. Surely the topic of gender and equality should not be making people angry in this day and age.

Surely women can support other women when they are striving for change and improved working conditions which then leads to happier, healthier families.

Why isn’t gender equality and pay equality happening?  We’re all so hung up on politics that we’ve stopped looking at humanity.


About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonald, Director of LeadershipHQ, is a thought leader, consultant, full time single mum and dynamic speaker and writer. Internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and strategy, organisational development and neuroscience, Sonia is an engaging writer who inspires as she educates. Sonia’s key focus is on the strategies behind successful business and leadership. Her articles and blogs are both fun and informative. Taking a neuroscience approach, Sonia shows how the power of the human brain can become the driver for business and team success, pushing your business to achieve and surpass organisational objectives. She has also just launched her amazing EmpowHER program which is taking Australia by storm and building leadership capability and confidence for women across the nation.

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