9th Annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar
Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Discussions on pay inequality and gender diversity commanded the Women in Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party Friday night, where actresses including Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander and Patricia Arquette convened to honor 2016’s 51 female Oscar nominees.

Before the cocktail party commenced, Women in Film president Cathy Schulman led a toast to recognize all the 2016 Oscar nominees — who were adorned with corsages — in attendance at the gathering, and in doing so, invited “Straight Outta Compton” screenwriter Andrea Berloff, Arquette and Lawrence to share the stage. Arquette, who famously used her 2015 Oscar acceptance speech as a platform to discuss the gender wage gap, spoke about pay inequality’s effect beyond the entertainment industry and the gap’s impact on the country’s poverty levels.

“Pay inequality affects women so drastically in America,” Arquette explained. “Yes, in our business, but really in 98% of all businesses. What we end up with is this: 33 million women and kids who are living in poverty, who would not be, if they were paid their full dollar.”

Lawrence graced the stage briefly after some prodding, noting that “this is the second night in a row this has happened to me.” (The night before, she was also put on the spot for remarks at Arquette’s Dinner for Equality.) Lawrence emphasized the importance of mentorship and reiterated Arquette’s equal pay sentiments with a triumphant, “Equal pay for women!”

On promoting the female perspective, “Transparent’s” Amy Landecker told Variety, “You’ve got to make your own content and you’ve got to write. That’s where things change. Of course someone has to buy it, which I think is what the conversation is shifting to now. Not only do the stories need to be told, but the people with the purse strings have to buy them,” said the actress, who’s in the process of writing an Amazon series called “Daddy’s Girl.”

Oscar-winning producer Schulman, who also heads production at STX Entertainment, highlighted the importance of including women in all decision making processes at STX.

“Every year, more and more, we become conscious of the need to stop for a minute, confront our own unconscious bias and make sure we’re including women in every decision we make — the decisions about content, the hiring decisions, the decisions about staffing,” said Schulman, who also hosted the cocktail party.

Of Women in Film’s advocacy for equal pay, she said, “We try to take a moment and look inside to say, ‘What is happening? Have we made progress this year? Do we feel good about the work we’re doing? Do we feel that it’s becoming easier for us to express our thoughts? Are we having more collaboration from those around us?'” She continued, “For all of us, it’s about using the collective influence that we have to speak out. Without doing that, what kind of a platform can we clear for the women that follow us? We have to clear the trees from the road so this doesn’t happen to them too.”

Echoing Schulman’s views on pay equality progression, “The Big Short” actress Adepero Oduye said, “You have to know your worth and exercise your voice. If you know your worth, there are things that you’re not going to accept. There are things that you’re going to speak up on. Your voice matters, and we’re all empowered.”

Added Landecker, “It’s all about being transparent.  When you actually see the numbers and see the statistics, that’s when outrage sets in and people want to make a change. We all have leverage, people like Jennifer Lawrence have the most leverage. When someone like that comes forward it trickles down all the way to us streaming actresses,” she said, referencing Lawrence’s 2015 essay on gender pay inequality in Hollywood.

Also in attendance at Women in Film’s pre-Oscar event were Jennifer Jason Leigh, Maria Bello, Charlotte Rampling, Emma Donoghue, Phyllis Nagy, Alicia Silverstone, Tom Hooper, Diane Warren, Mary Parent, Carrie Preston, Mya Taylor and Sophia Amoruso.

Max Mara, BMW, MAC Cosmetics, Perrier-Jouet and FIJI Water presented the Women in Film event, which was held at Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails in Los Angeles and treated attendees to a buffet, peach cocktails and Perrier-Jouet champagne.

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