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Viola Davis on Pay Inequality: ‘If You See Me the Same, Pay Me the Same’

On the red carpet for Variety‘s Power of Women New York event Friday, Viola Davis shared her thoughts on the #MeToo movement, its implications, and the lasting effects of sexual assault.

“I think the conversation now is people really feel like the impact is just a woman loses her career — it’s way deeper than that,” Davis said. “You lose your life in that moment.”

Davis acknowledged the progress #MeToo has made in terms of giving women voices, but she expanded on how discussions surrounding the movement could be more productive beyond sexual assault’s effects on women’s job prospects.

“The conversation that people need to have is what sexual assault does to that individual,” Davis said. “The moment that sexual assault happens and the trauma happens, how it spirals into side effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, drug addiction, rage issues, body dismorphic issues.”

The actress also clarified and elaborated on an earlier comment she made at the Women in the World salon on Feb. 13, in which she called to action those who say she is as one-of-a-kind as Meryl Streep. “If there is no like me, pay me what I’m worth,” Davis said at the event. 

At Power of Women, Davis spoke about the intersectional implications of the comment: “What I mean by that is black women are paid significantly less than Caucasian women, and Hispanic women are also paid significantly less.”

She expressed her desire to be seen as a woman, too, pointing out the similarities between women’s struggle to be paid the same as men and the barriers facing women of color who want to be paid the same as white women.

“If white women make half as much as white men, we make not even a quarter of what white women get. And then we don’t have the same opportunities to get paid more,” Davis said. “What I’ve invested in my career is exactly the same. And so if you see me the same, then pay me the same, which is what women are saying about men.”

Davis will be presenting honoree and Me Too founder Tarana Burke at the Friday luncheon.

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