Equal Pay American Style

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This is Amy Shamroe’s first guest post for our blog. We hope it will be the first of many ‘letters from America.’

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I live in America where women have the luxury of debating whether or not they consider themselves feminists. Women can vote, drive a car, accuse attackers without fear, and have a voice in their own future. Many women take these rights for granted. Some women also believe because we have those rights, and many others, women are equal and feminism is dead.

Men have granted us the right to vote. Men have allowed us into the workplace. The hard truth is that they still do not regard us as equals and this is evident in nearly every American woman’s paycheck.

I am a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). For 130 years, AAUW has fought for equality. Much of the current research about the gender pay gap and issues of women’s equality- from politics to science labs- in the United States has been funded, at least in part, by our organization.

Women in America make, on average,$.77 on the dollar compared to men in the same position.  When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women were making $.59 on the dollar.  In nearly 50 years, women in America have only seen a $.14 close in the gap.

Over the last couple years, there has been much debate about the Paycheck Fairness Act. The PFA seeks to expand EPA ’63 and the Fair Labor Standards Act. It would allow women more avenues for perusing possible pay discrimination by making it illegal to bar employees from discussing salaries, protect the jobs of women who do pursue the issue at their workplace, and provide funding for further research into pay disparity. All these steps seem logical ways to correct the problem, right?

Christina Hoff Summers, a crusading anti-feminist, voiced the opinion of many who oppose the Act, “[the]bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market.”

My favorite part of the quote was the idea that women not being treated equally in the workplace is a “falsehood”. Even if she ignores the studies showing the pay gap, there are other numbers that indicate pay disparity.

Only twenty-six of the top one thousand corporations have female CEOs according to 2011 Fortune 1000 list. That is 2.6%. This is indicative of the corporate world. The higher up the ladder, the fewer women you find.

It is still a male dominated world. Here in the US we may have all many freedoms on paper and certainly have better opportunities to exercise those freedoms than women elsewhere, but we are still kept down. In March of this year, President Obama revived discussion of the Paycheck Fairness Act, saying he is committed to passing it during his time in office. The current vicious political discord in American makes me hope rather than believe that he will honor that commitment. In the meantime, women (and men) in organizations like AAUW continue to raise our voices and fight for fairness.

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