Oscars: Wage inequality takes center stage

Kevin Winter | Getty Images

The glitz and glamour of the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood was overshadowed by some unexpected issues on Sunday, with diversity and politics coming to the fore.

Among the themes that punctuated the event at the 3,300-seat Dolby Theater was wage equality, driven by a plea from actress Patricia Arquette during her acceptance speech for best supporting actress.

Arquette won the award for her role as a struggling single mother in the film "Boyhood." After taking the stage, she used her time in the spotlight to call for equal pay for women.

"To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's rights...It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America," she said at the event.

Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez led the subsequent applause, as the audience responded to Arquette's words. The former leapt to her feet and cheered the call for women's rights, and the Associated Press later reported that Streep told Arquette backstage that the comments had "made (her) night."

Social media site Twitter lit up in reaction to the plea, with policymakers and human rights organizations adding to a chorus of calls for wage equality.

At the end of 2014, the hacking of emails at Sony revealed that A-lister Jennifer Lawrence was not paid the same as her male counterparts in the film American Hustle. This was despite Lawrence having won an Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook.

There have also been some in-depth studies that have highlighted the current pay disparity in Hollywood. A report published in January last year by the Journal of Management Inquiry said that female movie stars tend to see an earnings decline when they are over the age of 34.

Women tend to make more money in their twenties, according to the research, but it highlighted that male movie stars' salaries didn't peak until they were aged 51.

Meanwhile, Forbes magazine update a list every year of the highest paid Hollywood stars. In 2014, the top ten was taken up solely by men; Robert Downey Jr. topped the list with total earnings of $75 million for the year, while Sandra Bullock was the year's highest earning female, banking a total of $51 million.