For 50 years it’s been the law of the land that if two people do the same work, they should not be paid differently on the basis of their gender. This was a revolutionary idea, paving the way for succeeding generations women to have aspirations beyond being someone’s wife. Prior to it, an employer could legally argue “but he has a family to support and you’re single!” as a valid reason why a woman was getting a fraction of what her male colleagues earned.
And then everything was all better….
Ummm… wait. Shit, that’s not true. While it varies greatly from industry to industry, there is still a gap between the average man’s salary and the average woman’s in the same job.
IWPR’s research finds that women have lower median earnings than men in all but one of the 20 most common occupations for women, ‘bookkeeping and auditing clerks,’ where women and men have the same median earnings. In one of the twenty most common male occupations, ‘stock clerks and order fillers,’ women out-earned men by 3 percent of median male earnings.
And the reasons for this gap are always complicated: everything from the fact that men may be more likely to go into a specialized field of nursing compared to a woman nurse, to the conceptions employers may have about who is deserving of more overtime and promotion opportunities.
Some folks point to how men and women are socialized differently about negotiating for pay, with men feeling emboldened to ask for higher amounts and feeling entitled to faster promotions. But there is a lot of evidence that women do ask just as frequently, but are less likely to be met with a positive result.
So every April, there is Equal Pay Day. And aside from the kickass after-party (feminists are all about a thumpin dance floor), it’s an occasion to mark how, in order to make the same amount as a man, a woman would have to work several months into the next calendar year…. like, say, April.
It was the 17th, but I was too busy working yesterday to write about it.
But if you know me, you know I’m not just about noticing a problem and identifying its nature, I’m about solutions. What can you do to commemorate Equal Pay Day this year.
- There are practical solutions for women to consider in their careers, like making sure your cover letter is rocking and going in to negotiations armed with confidence and info.
- Share information on the situation with others around you, so that people know the problem of unequal wages is not a thing of the past.
- Commit to talking to young women about their career options seriously. Be a mentor to the young females around you and encourage them to consider themselves as future scientists, business people, artists or whatever else instead of just focusing on their cute clothes or social lives.
- If you’re in a position to promote women, check your own internal sexism and make sure you’re evaluating candidates fairly. Someone’s femininity, beauty, or motherhood status it does not make her a less capable employee.
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