Patricia Arquette: We need equal pay now

Patricia Arquette: We need equal pay now
Patricia Arquette: We need equal pay now

Actress Patricia Arquette has already won an Oscar. Now she wants a bigger prize: equal pay for women.

"We need equal pay and we need it now," Arquette told CNN's Paula Newton Tuesday. "We've had data on this for decades and there has been very little movement."

Arquette used one of her career's brightest moments to shed light on the gender pay gap

Women "have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once and for all," Arquette said in her 2015 acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "Boyhood."

Related: 6 things to know about the gender pay gap

The fight is very personal for Arquette.

Before she became a Hollywood star, she says she wasn't that different from a lot of single parents who barely get by.

"I was a single mother at 20 years old, and I struggled to buy diapers for my son and food while we lived in a converted garage. I saw my mom struggle with economic insecurity, and I think that made a big impact on me," she said Tuesday.

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day in America. Women in the U.S. earn only 79 cents for every dollar that men do, according to the American Association of University Women. Some of the pay gap is because women are more likely to work in lower-paying jobs.

But even when women perform the same work as men and have basically identical qualifications to their male counterparts, women still earn less, according to numerous studies.

Related: 10 reasons single women should be mad

We can't afford for women to be discriminated against like this, argues Arquette. It's part of the reason that one in five children in America aren't getting enough to eat.

"Three million women and kids living in poverty in the United States would not be if their mother was just paid her full dollar," she says.

Arquette is lobbying Congress to pass the "Equal Rights Amendment," which would guarantee equal rights for women in the U.S. Constitution.

"I would really like somebody to ask at the next debate how each of these candidates stand on women having equal constitutional rights," she says.

What will it take to close the gender pay gap?
What will it take to close the gender pay gap?

Related: U.S. women soccer players charge pay discrimination

Prominent women around the world say enough is enough on unequal pay.

Sallie Krawcheck rose to become one of Wall Street's most powerful women before being forced out. Now she runs a startup investment firm for women called Ellevest.

"If they ain't going to pay you what a guy gets paid, start looking for another job at companies that get it and will pay you what you're worth," Krawcheck said on CNN's Quest Means Business.

For Krawcheck, it's not just the morally right thing to do, it's good for the economy.

The U.S. economy could grow by $2.1 trillion more over the next decade if the gender pay gap narrowed significantly, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

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