Two days after actress Patricia Arquette made an impassioned call for women to be paid equally to men as she accepted an Academy Award last month in Hollywood, state legislators called a news conference in Sacramento to make the same demand.


While pay gaps persist across industries, they are typically smaller in the public sector than the private, said Ariane Hegewisch, who studies the issue for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C. The reason? Public employee salary data are public, making it easier for employees to see how they stack up to their colleagues, Hegewisch said, and many government workers are unionized, which also tends to make pay more equal within categories.

“There is greater transparency and focus on equal opportunity,” she said.

Legislators who have pushed for equal pay bills said they were not surprised to find a gender gap on the Capitol payroll.