Salma Hayek's Powerful Gender Equality Speech: 'They Can't Ignore Us Anymore'

Salma Hayek Pinault has a message for the world: women deserve equality – especially when it comes to salaries.

"This is a problem that is in every single industry," Salma told press on the red carpet at Variety's Power of Women luncheon in Los Angeles on Friday. "If you have the same capacities and you are doing the same job, it is criminal not to pay the same salary."

Once inside the event, where she was honored for her work with the Chime for Change women's empowerment project (which she co-founded with Beyonce and Gucci), Salma gave a powerful, stirring speech about the mistreatment of women and the courageous leadership of today's females.

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"We are a fantastic generation. We are the generation who said, 'Oh no, we're not going away at 30. This is gonna change. I'm not going to work there anymore? OK, I'm going to start my own industry,'" the 49-year-old actress, who was introduced at the event by longtime friend Jada Pinkett Smith, told the cheering crowd.

"We are 66 percent of the work power of the world. However, we only get 10 percent of the income of the world. This is really, really sad and tragic," she added.

Salma said that after more than 20 years of being an activist for women, she just now is beginning to feel like change is imminent.

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"We have been complaining about the situation of women in this industry for years," she said. "I remember many people in Oscar speeches [mentioned] it, but just this year, with the very eloquent speech of Patricia Arquette, finally they heard it! They actually ask you about it! We are talking about it, we are looking for solutions. We are the generation that is going to experience the difference, the transformation."

Adding, "I think the reason is not because they're very nice and they heard us, but because they cannot not hear us because we are such an economical power, women in the country. We represent such a strong part of the audience that they cannot ignore us anymore."

Women in day-to-day life all over the globe, as well as in the film industry, have been forced into roles and standards set by men in order to survive, Salma said, resulting in confusion.

READ: Emma Watson - Feminism Isn't 'Hateful'

"It's confusing because we've been neglected for so long that we really don't know what women want to see," she said. "We don't even recognize our voice anymore because our voices we've had to adjust to a system that was created by men so that they could survive. So that things could get made. It's a really inspiring time, because it's time for us to take this responsibility and try to find out who we really are."

The days of the rom-com/"chick flick" are coming to an end, the actress said.

"We're not the women [who] just wanna see the movie about how our prince is going to come and rescue us anymore. These romantic comedies are not working anymore, why? We changed! But nobody took the time to change with us in the industry," she said. "So it's a really exciting time to redefine who we are. This is the true heart of equality — not only when we can make as much, but we can speak as loud and we can really have the freedom to be ourselves instead of trying to survive or fit in."

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Salma is the latest in a long line of celebrities who've recently spoken out against gender inequality, including Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Emma Watson, Oprah Winfrey, Matt McGorry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Garner, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Geena Davis and Meryl Streep, who told BBC News this week that she still (after three Oscar wins and a record 19 nominations) gets paid less than her male co-stars.

"I experience [sexism] and I become a tiny bit enraged," the "Suffragette" star said. "It’s not just show business; it is in every single enterprise… Women are graduating from film schools, law schools and medical schools in equal numbers as men but they are shut out when they get to the leadership positions."

-- Erin O'Sullivan

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