Q: Why must we rear the ugly head of gender equality and equal pay again and again?
A: Because we are not making progress.
According to public opinion, things are good. Women are graduating from college in record numbers, little by little you see more of us pop up in leadership positions, and we even have a female running for President and she’s been spotted playing the woman card.
In The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) notes that progress has indeed been made, albeit very slowly. In 1963 President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act and in 2009 President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Since 2014, the AAUW has been pushing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
The purpose of the Paycheck Fairness Act is to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex and for other purposes, which would give women additional equal pay protections. If you’re keeping count, this is the third Act so far in the journey to close the gender pay gap once and for all.
Oh sure, the pay gap has already narrowed from $0.59 on the dollar in 1974 to $0.79 in 2014. You could make the argument that closing the gap by 20 cents in 40 years has got to count for something. That same argument, however, means we have another 40 years to go before the remaining $0.21 will appear on our paychecks based on the current rate of progress. That means many of us won’t LIVE to see the day!
Within one year after graduating from college, women make only 82% of our male counterparts. After that, we can look forward to the gap continuing to widen over the next 15 years of our professional lives. But why?
To understand the present, we must always look at the past. Remember when women stayed at home while our husbands brought home the bacon? Men earned a living wage at minimum because the family depended on one income. If a women chose to work, it was not out of financial necessity so the “logic” was that a women’s wage didn’t need to be as high as a man’s wage because our income was considered a disposable bonus.
Fast forward 50 years.
I don’t know about you, but I had to pay my own bills and take care of my daughter’s needs alone. My ex-husband complained that the little he paid in child support was too much, so he gave us the absolute minimum and only when forced. In retrospect, I now find it amusing that some men think the few hundred dollars they pay in child support goes towards funding extravagant vacations, shopping sprees, and fancy dinners! After-school child care ate up all the child support I received, and then some. And let’s not talk about the cost of housing, food, clothing, health insurance, and all the other expenses a family incurs, no matter how small. Life is expensive.
For women who are married and decide to return to the work force after taking time off to raise children, forget starting at your previous salary or job title. Women are punished for pausing their careers. This phenomenon is so well known it even has a name: Motherhood Penalty.
I’ve said it again and again. It cannot be a surprise to any man or organization that women have babies. Yet, women are still treated like a foreign species when we utter the words “I’m pregnant.” Admittedly, we’ve made progress from 23 years ago when I had to apply for disability insurance after giving birth. Now it’s got a nicer ring to it: Family Leave. It’s still not enough.
It makes my blood boil when I see women being almost apologetic for producing new life. Can’t everyone plainly see we need the next generation, and the next one, and so on? Equally astonishing to me is that our male bosses, who dote on their wives and daughters, penalize employees for being women and having children. Forget the war on terror, can we please stop the war on women?
This gender pay gap is so engrained in our thinking that even eBay has this issue with their sellers. A research project run by Kricheli-Katz and Regev studied 1.1 million transactions on the 420 most popular products auctioned on eBay in a four-year period. They found when the seller self-identified as female, there were fewer auction bids and the winning bid was lower when compared to sellers who were identified as men. For used items, the gender gap was small with female sellers earning 3% less on average. But for new products, women received only $.80 for every dollar when compared to men’s sales for similar products on eBay.
The reason voices are once again getting louder and louder about gender equality and closing the gap is because in the midst of our silence, the numbers have started to go backwards. Yes, the numbers show equal opportunity and equal pay are declining.
As a society we have a choice to make. Do you want to pretend none of this matters, or roll up your sleeves and make gender equality a top priority across the board?
There is not one valid reason why two human beings doing the same work, same title, same position, same responsibility would be paid differently. Pay equity is the right thing to do. Companies who fail to address this soon will be in the line of fire and under increasing scrutiny from the public—especially Millennials.
As the Deloitte Millennial study says,
“…looking at their career goals, today’s Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and its contribution to society as they are in its products and profits,” said Barry Salzberg, CEO of Deloitte Global. “These findings should be viewed as a valuable alarm to the business community, particularly in developed markets, that they need to change the way they engage Millennial talent or risk being left behind.”
Please share your thoughts on this. I want to know why YOU believe we are not making enough progress and what you think our next move should be.