It reminded me of another significant event, election night in November 2008 when Barak Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. I was in Portland, Oregon for a meeting and the celebrations in the street went on into the early hours of the morning. Network anchors characterized this as a defining moment in US history when all could now aspire to be president. Really? I could not relate.
I live in a country where it took ten years between 1972 and 1982 for 35 states to ratify an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, three short of the 38 necessary. Since that time, the amendment has been brought before Congress with no action. An amendment that simply states:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Which brings me to Patricia Arquette and her remarks accepting the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
If you were on Twitter, the early comments were both supportive and critical. For those of you who believe all is well in the workplace, take a look at an article in The New York Times on Saturday, ‘In China’s Modern Economy, A Retro Push Against Women’. Quoting Angela Li’s supervisor after she was passed over for a promotion, “‘It’s good that you girls take your work seriously. But you should be focusing on finding a boyfriend, getting married, having a kid.’ Ms. Li quit. ‘I could compete in terms of ability, but not in terms of gender,’ she said.”
Some of the critics felt Ms. Arquette unfairly limited her remarks to working women with children. Lydia DePillis writing on The Washington Post ‘Wonkblog’ this morning documents the widening wage gap for working mothers. “There’s not so much a gender pay gap as there is a motherhood pay gap. And there’s new research all the time explaining why it persists…while the overall gender wage gap has been shrinking in the United States, the discrepancy for mothers has been growing, and it gets wider with every additional child.”
Thank you Ms. Arquette for reminding us that the workplace is not yet a level playing field. The time is long past for leaders in all sectors of the economy and government to revisit our policies and ensure equal access and equal pay for women.