"I represented my country on the field for almost 15 years. I won a world cup and Olympic gold medals. I was awarded best player in the world. And then, when I retired, I found myself on a stage receiving an ESPY icon award alongside Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant. The three of us walked off that stage and into very different futures. I'll have to reinvent myself to pay my bills in retirement in ways they'll never have to...I'm coaching my 11-year-old future daughter's soccer team. On that field I promise those girls that they are equal, that if they work hard and stick together they can accomplish anything. But the thing about that is none of that's really true YET.”
Today is Equal Pay Day. It exists to raise awareness about the gap in pay because of gender.
It is easy to blow this off or to push it aside as a “feminist agenda.” But the evidence proves women, and minority women especially, are paid less than their male counterparts.
In The U.S.Women working full-time in the United States earns $0.83 for every $1 a man earns. The gap is even wider for African-American women ($.70), and Latinas ($.60) (livefashionable). In practical terms, a woman brings home $3 less per hour than a man (or $24 a day, $120 a week, $6,240 annually!). Over a 40-year career that’s over $400,000 for a white woman or over $1,000,000 for a Latina (NWCL)!
- The pay discrepancy is worse for lower-income jobs.
- Education does not help. The gap continues regardless of education level, even though more women than men have a post-graduate degree.
- Unions do not close this gap.
- This is not a gender problem, it’s an issue of respect.
It is argued that women take jobs in sectors where workers are paid less (teaching, health care, or child-care, etc.) so its comparing apples to oranges. But look within industries themselves and women are still paid less.
In the business world, much has been written about women’s access to higher level jobs, the c-suites, etc. There is a lot of presumption and projecting placed on women that holds them back. The role of gender and un-equal parenting means women often have to ask for adjusted work schedules, can’t do post-work outings, are at home after pregnancy, etc. And instead of adjusting to these realities, thereby enabling both parents to engage with work and home, business sticks to a rigid mentality that does not work.
If a male and female are hired for the same job, they come in with the same qualifications, education, etc. they should be given the same base pay, regardless of gender, race, etc. Come time for a raise, if an employee has met the goals and expectations placed on them, they should be given equal raises and chances for promotion. And yet this overly obvious, basic set-up does not happen.
Industry has to shift. Childrearing has to adjust. And what that looks like is for families to figure out. But when, in 6 out of 10 families, a woman in the primacy or co-breadwinner, $6,000 a year can be the difference between living in poverty or not.
“If working women were paid the same as comparable men, the poverty rate among all working women would fall by more than half in 28 states. … In 16 states, the poverty rate among single mothers would fall by more than half if working single mothers were paid the same as comparable men” (Status of Women).
Read that again – the poverty rate among working women would fall by more than half. Imagine that ripple for our economy and generations of families if we just paid women equally.
GloballyGlobally the numbers get worse with women earning only $0.77 per a man’s dollar (UNWomen) if they work at all.
Women are often denied the opportunity to work. The responsibilities of child rearing fall on women in even more disproportionate measure in the developing world. Take into account a lack of education, early marriage, lack of access to medical care, birth control, etc. along with the male domination of many cultures and women do not have a lot of options.
Women tend to be economically dependent on men. Women cannot buy land. They sometimes cannot have their own bank accounts. They might not even have access to legal services.
But even for those who can work, the options are not good. Lack of opportunity leads to many barely able to eke out a living being entrepreneurial, selling food at the market and along road side stands, or opening up a seamstress operation in their home. Many work in brothels because no other opportunity exists. Or, just getting by means working in a sweatshop to satisfy our need for cheap goods.
No one can survive on $2 a day. Single or with a family of three it is impossible. And yet, we somehow think because of where people are born that they “deserve” to be poor or, better yet, that they should be happy to work in conditions that have not been acceptable in this country since the turn the last century. We cannot fool ourselves into saying that because they have a job it is okay. We would not allow ourselves or those we love to be exploited so we could buy a $2 t-shirt or cheap shoes. They want more for themselves and we have to demand better for those who we support with our dollars.
1. If you are in a position of power at your company, ensure equal pay practices are encouraged.
What Can You Do?
2. Mentor younger women to know how to ask for raises and help them move up the corporate structure.
3. Volunteer or give to groups helping women to get better jobs in the work force.
4. Follow groups working for wage equality and use your voice to get measures passed in your state and national Congress to help close the wage gap. (http://nwlc.org/take-action/)
5. Support efforts that help low-income and single mother households so they can work and provide for their families.
6. Shop fair trade. That is how we will bridge the pay gap globally. Demand more from big box retailers and corporations. Treat those who make our products how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.
We need to bridge the pay gap in America. Archaic thinking prevents us from doing something that would benefit all of us. It should be illegal to ask for previous wage information. We must stop punishing women for having children.
We want our little girls to dream big and affect the world, we need to pay them what they are worth and stop holding all of us back. But these dreams of equality cannot just be for girls in America. Let’s help millions of girls hope for a better future by ensuring we are not supporting exploitation or oppression with our purchases.
It’s time. We can do something.