Photo from Huffington Post
Each day we go to work, women earn only a portion of their male counterparts. In the same positions, with the same education and qualifications, in low and high paying jobs alike. White women earn on average $.79 cents for every man’s dollar and if you are black or brown, it falls as low as $.55 cents.
It was in the 1940s that Winifred Stanley, a female Congresswoman, first introduced legislation pushing to close the gender wage gap. Voted down, it wasn’t until 1963 that President Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act making wage discrimination based on gender punishable. However, the law left efforts to enforce tedious and subjective.
Currently still the standard; women are required to show that both the employer pays different wages and that they are performing equal work on jobs requiring equal skill.
More so, employers are able to avoid liability by asserting the pay difference is the result of a system of seniority or merit or quantity or quality of production. In essence, the burden of evidence falls unfairly on the plaintiff with large loopholes for companies to explain away discrimination. And so despite that 60% of women today are the sole or primary breadwinners, the initial pushes of the 70s and 80s have stalled. We see relatively the same number of women in roles as CEOs, partners in law firms and tenured university professors as we did in the 90s. The reasons for this are vast and systematic. Many of us are caught in intertwined cycles of poverty, discrimination and sexism. We are often forbidden to discuss wages with co-workers, thus perpetuating only a mere 44% of men to perceive that a pay gap exists.
We have been conditioned to believe that speaking out in the workplace equates stereotypes of bossy, angry or bitter, that in order to be taken seriously, we must “play down” or neutralize our womanhood. We are often made to feel that because we are more likely to be balancing home and work life or because we are entering male dominated fields of science and tech, a difference in pay is justifiable. But it is not. And it is imperative that we speak out.
We must voice our support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. Introduced in April 2017, the Act extends the intention of the Equal Pay Act to make discrepancies in wages transparent. The Act, which has been debated and voted down by Republicans several times, allows employees to freely discuss wages and prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns. In short, the Act would make wage discrimination based on gender subject to the same remedies as discrimination based on race or national origin.
Write to your Congressman. Resist the stereotypes. Question your employer. Support your fellow female co-workers.
- Maureen Post