Friday, April 18, 2008

Pay Equity Day: April 22

Liberality asked me whether I was going to post on “Equal Pay Day,” the creation of the National Committee on Pay Equity. This is the first I’d even heard of Equal Pay Day, but I catch up pretty quick! Here are my thoughts on the subject. Equal Pay Day is April 22, but I am posting today so others who read this post can join in too.

First, here’s a bit of info from the National Committee on Pay Equity’s web site to explain:
"Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The day, observed on a Tuesday in April, symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. (Tuesday is the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week.) Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color."

I’ve worked a lot of different places after almost twenty years in the working world, and not once have I ever worked anyplace where there were more or even as many women in positions of authority than men. I’ve heard many stories about women with master’s degrees making less for the same job as men with bachelor’s degrees, qualified women not getting a promotion while a less-qualified man does. No one ever says the old classic lines: “Well, he’s a man with a family to support!” or “You’ve got a husband to earn for you, so you don’t get the promotion over the man.”

No, sexism and inequity is far more subtle these days, which I suppose is a gain in itself. Still, the wage gap doesn’t lie. Women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That’s on average; when you take into account race, education, and home state, it gets even worse.

As a kid growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s, I vividly recall the days of women burning their bras and marching in the streets, the epic (and inevitably futile) struggle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and the general mood of possibilities: “you’ve come a long way, baby.” (Ironically enough, “baby” had come a long way because she had “her own cigarette”—thanks for the cancer, guys!) Still, thirty years later, I see evidence that while we may well have come a long way from those days when we couldn’t vote or own our own property, we still have oh so far to go.

Hillary Clinton, cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, at Equal Pay Day 2007

Will humans ever overcome their sexism? I’ve known both men and women who have internalized and accepted the concept of men having the power and women being the “weaker sex.” With a population where women outnumber the men (so far), you’d think that at some point, women would have gotten equal access to the reins of power as men. You’d think women would be getting paid the same wage as men for the same job. You’d think women as a group would have gotten sick of this shit and finally put our collective foot down and made the world accept us as the equals of men in every way.

But you’d be thinking wrong. The sexism brought out into the open by Hillary Clinton’s campaign is well documented. The wage inequity is well documented. If she could get here in a time machine, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would probably be both impressed by our gains, and disgusted by the things that remain the same. And there doesn’t seem to be much of an end in sight. Until women are equally represented in the halls of power, with the authority to make laws and change minds, I don’t believe we’ll ever see an end to gender inequity.

What do you think it will take to close the wage gap?

Phone numbers of note, for you working women out there:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 800-669-4000 The Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) Advice and Counseling Hotline 800-839-4372


CDP said...

Nice post, Ms. G!

vikkitikkitavi said...

It's time like this that I am reminded that women have had the vote for less than a hundred years.

Anonymous said...

Great post! It occurs to me, too, that one of the reasons that pay equity can continue the way it does is because Americans think it's impolite to discuss pay. A lot of employers would flip their lid if people discussed salary openly.

Liberality said...

where I work we are discouraged from discussing how much people make. no doubt about it, that way women can't find out and get mad that some guy with less education and experience is making more than they are. we can't get angry when we are ignorant of what is going on.

Mary Ellen said...

I remember working for a place that if you discussed your pay with anyone and it got back to management, you would be fired. I also worked for an engineering firm that used to have a big golf outing weekend at a swank club every year, I mean it was HUGE and very exclusive. I was secretary to the VP at the time and found out that the women execs were not allowed to go on the outing and I also found a paper in my bosses file that had pay raise scales that showed women got 20% less than the men did on their pay scale. 20%! I quit that job about a month later because it was so sexist there...the things I could tell you that went on. Unbelievable.

FranIAm said...

Outstanding. I did not get to post on this as I did not have time to do it justice. There have been so many great posts.

I came out of a company that was mostly run by women; but once they got to a certain level, they did tend to leave the rest of us behind.

The male-ification of women and the on-going saga of pay.

You have done a fantastic job here.

Randal Graves said...

No, sexism and inequity is far more subtle these days, which I suppose is a gain in itself.

It might be, but perhaps more difficult to extinguish simply because it hides in the shadows? Sexism, racism, homophobia, they all hang out below the surface. Things are always easier when the bad guy wears a black hat.

You're probably right about the solution. More women in the halls of power, that are visible and raise the issue and confront its enablers head-on is the only way. We shouldn't expect Dems to play nice with The Maverick®, we shouldn't expect to play nice with misogynist assholes.

Whiskeymarie said...

Great post.
I am lucky to work somewhere where wages are determined through a system of steps & columns, all entirely based on education & work experience with no room for bias.
That being said, I am still painfully aware of the gap between men & women in the workplace, having worked in a male-dominated, testosterone-fueled field for a while now.

I remember, many years ago when I was a retail monkey, I had been working for a company for 2 years and had worked my way up to what I thought was a good salary. Imagine my surprise when a male, part time employee (working under me)was hired at nearly $3/hour more than me (at the time, $3/hour was a BIG deal).
My supervisor, a woman, was the one responsible for this, and when I brought my grievance to her she was more upset that I had found out at all than upset at the indignity of the situation. She was pissed that they had to give me a raise.

Liberality said...

I don't know if you do memes or not. If you do, come over to my place because I've tagged you. If not, no big deal.

Distributorcap said...

there is also pay scale prejudice with regard to ageism, racism and familyism

i remember when first started at another media company back in the 80s, the finance people talking about giving people with 'kids' more money because they needed it as opposed to single people ---

and that single people would move up faster since they didnt have a family to rush home to...

with my own 2 (or one) ears

GETkristiLOVE said...

That's why I'm a ho - to bridge the wage gap. ;)

dguzman said...

CDP--thank you.

Vik--amazing, huh? Seems like forever, but only to our limited little viewpoints.

DCup--In every place I've worked, it's been FORBIDDEN! to talk about salary, either your own or anyone else's; I knew someone who got fired for discussing her shitty pay raise at a company I used to work for. If people did discuss it openly, you can bet things would be a lot more equitable.

Lib and ME--not surprising. As I said, I've worked places where part of your initial HR paperwork was signing a paper saying you wouldn't discuss pay with ANYONE. How convenient for the assholes in power.

Fran--the "male-ification" thing really gets me. It's sad. I mean, I wear pants exclusively, but it's my CHOICE. And of course, it probably prevents my being promoted! But I don't care.

Randal--true--it's a difficult call, deciding whether open prejudice is harder to fight than the covert kinds. There are good arguments on both sides.

Whiskey--that just happened to a friend of mine where I work. She has a master's, but this guy wouldn't come in for anything less than X amount, so he got it despite the fact that he now works for my lower-paid buddy. Lovely.

Liberality--I'll check it out.

DCap--it makes me so angry to hear stuff like that, because it's hard to prove and hard to get justice. It's almost better to just stay ignorant; certainly easier on the blood pressure.

GKL--a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do!

TomCat said...

Dcup, the reason it's considered impolite to discuss pay is that failure to do so keeps employees from learning who is being screwed.

dguzman said...

Tomcat--exactly. I suppose the impolite part of it comes when you say, "that asshole makes HOW MUCH?"

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!