An exciting moment for many Oscar viewers on Sunday was Patricia Arquette's Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech for her role as the protagonist's mother in the film Boyhood.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said. “It is our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”
Those words, which drew cheers from fellow actresses Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, reflect growing tensions in Hollywood over the way women in the industry are represented and compensated. Not only do actresses have fewer roles available to them than men—only 30% of speaking characters—but they are paid less across the board. Even Academy Award-winning women face a huge pay gap: They get an extra $500,000 on average tacked on to their salary after winning an Oscar, compared with a $3.9 million bump for men.
Of course, pay discrimination is not limited to La-La Land. Women still make only 78¢ for every dollar a man makes, the Census reports, and that's true across all wage levels, for everyone from truck drivers to top executives.
If you're frustrated by your salary (or the pay earned by a woman in your life) and Arquette's words resonated with you, here are some ways to change things right now.
1. Talk to a man whose job you want
A recent study found that women tend to express satisfaction with low pay because they compare themselves with female peers, and therefore never get a full picture of how underpaid they are relative to men.
Finding a male mentor in a position a notch or three above you can be a huge asset for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that he can give you an unbiased idea of what salary you should be asking for when you seek a promotion or new job.
2. Don't say "yes" without making a counteroffer
Whether because of social expectations or a hesitation to appear too aggressive (a fear that is not unfounded given proven workplace biases), women are less likely to negotiate than men. One study revealed that only 31% of women countered the salary offer for their first job after grad school, versus 50% of men.
When you are asking for a raise or naming your salary expectations for a new job, it helps to come prepared. You'll want to be ready with a clear description of your successes and how you have added value in your current position. And you should have an exact dollar figure in mind; research shows negotiating with a specific number makes you sound more authoritative than using a ballpark one.
If you get a resounding "no," don't just give up: Consider asking for a one-time bonus instead.
3. Become a mentor
It's obvious advice to seek out strong mentors to get ahead at work. But taking subordinates under your wing can be just as effective for increasing your status.
Wharton professor Adam Grant has shown that women and men alike tend to be most successful when they balance both giving and taking at work. And women in particular can get a leg up as negotiators when they are in a mentor position, Grant found.
When the higher ups see you as a person who gives a lot and supports the people around you, it's easier for you to take a little back—in the form of higher pay.