Doesn’t it infuriate you that women could be making thousands of dollars more each year?! Think of what you could do with extra money each year – pay off a debt, save for retirement, or donate more to your favorite nonprofit. Even though President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, American women in the United States who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to white men (National Women’s Law Center.)
April 17th was equal pay day. Equal pay day is a symbolic marking of how much longer it takes (white) women to earn as much as white men in the previous year. Below are a few statistics for Massachusetts from the National Women’s Law Center Equal Pay Day Fact Sheet:
– In 2010, the “typical” (not sure what this is defined as) woman in MA working full time, year round was paid 81 cents for every dollar paid to a (white) man working full time, year round
– African-American women working full time, year round were paid 62 cents for every dollar paid to white men
– Latina women working full time, year round, were paid 51 cents to every dollar paid to white men
For more facts, check out this website or this report by the American Association of University Women.
I am angry that the facts are this dismal in 2012. I get even angrier when I read articles and comments by people who dismiss these facts or say they aren’t relevant – even though research controlling for all sorts of variables (age, education, profession, motherhood, etc.) proves that a gender pay gap does exist! (The AAUW report calmly and logically answers six common questions regarding the gender pay gap.)
However, instead of seething, how can I channel my anger in a productive direction? How can you channel your anger to change the system?
As an individual, I can negotiate for a higher salary. (However, I have to make sure I do it in a way so that I’m not seen as too pushy, self-promoting, or ‘bitchy’.)
You can also use these steps provided by the National Committee for Pay Equity for conducting a self-audit of your workplace. If you find that you are experiencing sex discrimination in your paycheck at work, you can call the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hotline at 1-800-669-4000 or file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
These changes will work to close the pay gap one person and one workplace at a time. To create systematic change, you and I can educate friends, family, roommates, acquaintances and even our dogs at the dog park through discussions, phone calls, op-eds and blog and Facebook posts (see, I’m educating myself and you now!).
Furthermore, I can activate my informed network of people to bother their legislators to endorse the Equal Paycheck Act or to ensure budget inclusion for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
You can also support the efforts of grassroots organizations, which support workers’ rights, particularly marginalized women of color. One of our grantee organizations, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, organizes to ensure workers end unsafe working conditions and learn their employment rights. Another grantee organization, the Brazilian Immigrant Center, supports workers’ struggles and educates documented and undocumented immigrants about workplace rights.
Hopefully, with the actions taken by you and me, we can close the gender pay gap – for women of color, elder women, women with disabilities, mothers, and white women, within vulnerable professions or not, so that this struggle becomes viewed as the struggle of all women.