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