By Ian Sullivan
Equal Pay Day is this coming Tuesday, April 14, and as the states, the day’s purpose “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.” In other words, Equal Pay Day doesn’t fall on just any random day; what women have earned in the 104 days since the new year began combined with all of last year equates to what men earned just in last year’s 365 days. The gender wage gap is no secret, and yet its status as such wide-affecting issue persists. Simply put, if you’re a man, you’re bound to make more money than a woman doing the same exact work. That is inherently unjust, and unfortunately, more than 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women are still being taken advantage of.
Comedian Sarah Silverman, of whom I am a big fan, delivered a sort of public service announcement for Time magazine the other day, in which she recalls an instance in her life when her and fellow comedian Todd Barry performed stand-up sets on the same night at the same club for the same amount of time. Barry received sixty dollars in compensation; Silverman received an insulting ten dollars…for the exact same work.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports that the wage gap has hardly even budged in a decade. On average, men in Idaho make about $41,000 a year, compared to women’s $31,000. That’s about a 25% difference, larger than the national average of 22%. As if the fact that being a woman clearly affects your pay isn’t discouraging enough, statistics point out that along with gender, there are other contributing factors that can increase the gap even further, including race and age. Latina women make a shocking 54% of what Caucasian men make each year. And as a woman ages, she can expect to continue to earn less than what her male peers of the same age are making.
In our gradually more progressive society, as gender roles begin to slowly dissipate, it’s becoming less and less common for women to stick to the traditional “stay-at-home mom” role and enter the work force. Women who pursue higher education are earning higher salaries than those who don’t, however, it’s showing little to no effect on the persisting gender wage gap. The AAUW has some suggestions regarding what can be done to find solutions to this problem, and it’s everybody’s responsibility to contribute if the desired change is to be made. CEOs of companies must make a conscious effort to address the issue; women must do their best to negotiate their own fair pay, and settle for nothing less; and activists must continue to speak up and spread awareness.
Gender pay inequity does not just affect women. It has a ripple effect, hurting men and women, their families, as well as entire economies. If a family is reliant on what a woman earns, then obviously the family is going to be directly affected by just how much she is being paid. The National Women’s Law Center reports that in 2012, 14.3 married couples with children relied on the incomes of both parents, making up for over 50% of all married couples in the US.
I feel I work hard at what I do, and I expect to be paid adequately for it. I cannot begin to understand how it must feel to be undercut in this regard. I would be utterly insulted had I ever been compensated with less than I felt I deserved. At one time, I was one of those people who shrugged off the wage gap, assuming it to be a myth reliant on fabricated statistics. But the numbers don’t lie. Across the board, women make less than men in every single occupation, even with the same or higher level of education and experience. This isn’t just an issue of gender, but an issue of civil rights. All people, regardless of gender or race, should be paid equally for the same work, and failure to do so is a direct form of discrimination.