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The Most Powerful Celebrity Quotes on Equal Pay

May 18, 2016

We will continue to update this list

Robin Wright’s speech Tuesday at a Rockefeller Foundation event, in which she revealed that she demanded to be paid as much as Kevin Spacey, is just the latest example of stars speaking out on pay equality.

As two federal government agencies conduct an investigation looking into discrimination against female directors in Hollywood, Motto takes a look back at some of the key times stars have chosen to speak out about pay equality in the industry and in the world at large.

  • September 2012, Kerry Washington, Democratic National Convention

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    “Today there are people trying take away rights that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for: Our right to vote, our right to choose, affordable quality education, equal pay, access to health care. We the people can’t let that happen.”

  • January 2014, Beyoncé, The Shriver Report

    Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

    “We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77% of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.”

  • September 2014, Emma Watson, HeForShe campaign event

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    “The reality is that if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work.”

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  • February 2015, Patricia Arquette, Oscars

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    “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 high time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

    (In April, at a panel sponsored by the Tribeca Film Festival, Arquette said she lost roles because of what she said about equal pay in her Oscars speech.)

    Read more: So You’re Making Less Than a Man—Now What?

  • May 2015, Judy Greer, Glamour

    Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images for IWC

    “In the past few months, I’ve become convinced of one thing: If I were a man, I’d be paid more. I realize that some people may not sympathize with an actress who gets to be in movies and on TV for a living. But if you take away names and vocations, the fact is that in 2015 a man is still getting paid more money to do the same job a woman does, in Hollywood and everywhere else. And no matter where you live or what you do, that’s bullsh-t.”

  • June 2015, Charlize Theron, Elle U.K.

    Todd Williamson—Getty Images for CinemaCon

    “I have to give them credit because once I asked [to make the same as men were making to work on the Snow White And The Huntsman sequel], they said yes. They did not fight it. And maybe that’s the message: That we just need to put our foot down. This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way.”

    Read more: How Much Would You Make if You Were a Man?

  • June 2015, Meryl Streep, letters to Congress

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    “I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality—for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself—by actively supporting the Equal Rights Amendment,” Streep wrote in her letters to U.S. Congressmen.

  • October 2015, Jennifer Lawrence, Lenny Letter

    Mike Marsland—Mike Marsland/WireImage

    “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with d-cks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).

    But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’

    This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way?”

  • November 2015, Rosario Dawson, MTV News

    Donna Ward—Getty Images

    “If it was just women getting paid less than men then that would just be one thing, but even among women, especially according to race and privilege, there are a lot of women who are getting paid more than even some men are. It’s a very complex situation when you think about what are black women making in comparison to white women, what are Latin women making, what are Asian women making in comparison, and it gets even more convoluted.”

  • November 2015, Sandra Bullock, Variety

    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin—FilmMagic/Getty Images

    “It’s a bigger issue than money. I know we’re focused on the money part right now. That’s just a byproduct. I keep saying, ‘Why is it that no one is standing up and saying you can’t say that about a woman?’ We’re mocked and judged in the media and articles.

    Really, how men are described in articles versus women, there’s a big difference. I always make a joke: ‘Watch, we’re going to walk down the red carpet, I’m going to be asked about my dress and my hair while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues.’

    Once we start shifting how we perceive women and stop thinking about them as ‘less than,’ the pay disparity will take care of itself. There’s a much bigger issue at hand. I’m glad Hollywood got caught.”

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  • January 2016, Chris Rock, The New Yorker

    Jason LaVeris—WireImage/Getty Images

    “Black women have the hardest gig in show business. You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman—if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”

  • February 2016, Viola Davis, Mashable

    Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images

    “I have to be honest with you. I believe in equal pay, first of all. I’m sorry, if a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money. She just should. That’s just the way the world should work.”

  • March 2016, Carli Lloyd, The New York Times

    Harry How—Getty Images

    “When I joined four teammates in filing a wage-discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer late last month, it had nothing to do with how much I love to play for my country. It had everything to do with what’s right and what’s fair and with upholding a fundamental American concept: Equal pay for equal play.”

  • May 2016, Robin Wright, Rockefeller Foundation event

    Larry French—Getty Images

    “There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in House of Cards. … I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public.’ And they did.”