Heather Shea Gasser
Director, Women’s Center
(reposted from 2012)
Earlier this year, a friend of mine who works at another university was faced with a modern-day equal pay dilemma. She worked as the director of a student affairs unit on her campus for several years, when a director-level vacancy within another similar-sized student affairs unit came open. Shortly after the hire of this new director was announced, my friend discovered that HIS starting salary was higher than hers. It wasn’t quite 23% higher (as is the national average when one compared female to male salaries for equal work) but it was significant enough that she was first concerned, then hurt, and then angry. I relay this all-too-familiar account because today, April 9th, is Equal Pay Day. I am joining friends and colleagues across the country who are wearing red to symbolize how women’s wages are still “in the red” and to note how far into 2013 women must work to earn what men earned in 2012. We must also consider that for women of color, the date is even later into 2013. Latinas earn 58 cents and African American women earn 68 cents as compared to every man’s dollar. The National Committee on Pay Equity said Equal Pay Day originated in 1996 to make the public aware of the gender wage gap.
Many students who come into the Women’s Center express the sentiment that the work of the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s is over, that we have solved many of the issues and blatant discrepancies between women and men in society. We’re post-feminism. Thank you, Gloria Steinem, but we’re all good now.
We usually respond with calm justification; citing statistics about the rates of sexual harassment and assault, discuss the glass ceiling and the disproportionately low representation of women in elected office. But the issue that really resonates with students is pay. How, in 2013, are women only paid 77 cents on average compared to a dollar paid to men? Then we look at this in real-dollar annual salary terms, and it’s enough to make most non-believers gasp:
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- Women have only gained 13 cents toward pay equity with men in the last 30 years.
- At this rate, it will take another 60 years before we achieve pay equity.
- When men and women are paid differently for comparable work, women have fewer resources to support themselves and their families, to invest in additional education for themselves and their children and to provide for retirement.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, a group that has investigated pay equity nationwide, state-by-state, the gap in Idaho is even greater than then national average. In fact, Idaho ranks 43rd in the nation: “Women are paid 74 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $10,725 between full-time working men and women in the state.”
The implications of eliminating the wage gap are tangible. According to a variety of sources, if the wage gap were eliminated, a working woman in Idaho would have enough money for approximately
- 82 more weeks of food (1.6 years’ worth);
- Nine more months of mortgage and utilities payments;
- 16 more months of rent;
- 35 more months of family health insurance premiums (nearly three years’ worth); or
- 2,832 additional gallons of gas.
Equal pay is not a woman’s issue, it’s a family issue. As more families rely on women’s wages to pay bills and make ends meet, and as more mothers are among the paid labor force, pay equity becomes a necessity for our economy and for our families’ welfare. This requirement is even more significant when women are the sole wage earners for their families.
As much as we would like to believe differently, unfortunately, education does not reduce the wage gap. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women with professional degrees are paid just 67 cents for every dollar paid men with professional degrees. Further, women with doctoral degrees are paid less than men with master’s degrees, and women with master’s degrees are paid less than men with bachelor’s degrees (see graph below from the American Association of University Women).
So, I’ll ask again… do you think the work of the women’s movement is over? If you take one thing from reading this blog post, I hope it is that the pay gap is real and that equity is still an issue worth fighting for… See you later today, wearing red.