Mind the Gap: Women Seek Equal Pay

Simmering just beneath the surface of the workforce for years, The Pay Gap has emerged as one of the greatest political issues for women of our time. The Pay Gap addresses the fact that on average, full-time working women are paid less than full-time working men. The data has recently reached influential people such as President Obama, who cites statistics such as, “Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.”

Where did the Pay Gap originate? It may be a principle programmed into the minds of Americans at an early age. According to the results of a study released by the U.S. organization Junior Achievement, statistics have shown that more boys are paid to do household chores than girls. Whether these studies represent a clear correlation with the pay gap is yet to be determined, but the trends found are nevertheless clear.

This has been an important year for activists of equal pay, beginning on April 8th when President Obama observed Equal Pay Day — a date that represents on average how far into 2014 a woman would have to work to earn the same amount a man earned in 2013. In recognition of the day, the president signed two executive orders that he believes will help the situation. The first order forbids federal contractors from having rules preventing their employees from discussing wages with one another. Coworkers’ inability to share salary information among themselves has inhibited many women from ever discovering that they are paid less than their male counterparts. The second order requires federal contractors to send reports of salary data to the Labor Department agency, including information on sex and race. It is anticipated that these reforms will drive employers to correct pay discrepancies before their employees realize they are being unfairly compensated.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, confronts the issue of The Pay Gap in her book Lean In For Graduates, an updated, new edition of her best seller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Sandberg’s books analyze the many aspects of women in the workplace and offer valuable guidance to any aspiring female leader. Lean In For Graduates speaks to both men and women, especially those of the millennial generation. It is her belief that this growing demographic will push the envelope on equal pay and become “The Lean In Generation.” In an interview with the Huffington Post, Sandberg emphasizes that now is the time for more women to step up into leadership roles. She gives advice on negotiating one’s correct salary and puts emphasis on women’s empowerment. She acknowledges the fact that different calculations lead to various estimations of the exact size of the pay gap, yet she affirms that the true concern here is simply the existence of a pay gap at all.

Continuing the trend of equal pay activists speaking out this year, Lilly Ledbetter took the stage as a featured speaker in a series at Portland State University. Ledbetter made waves in Washington in 2009 when congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, easing up the time restrictions for filing a discrimination lawsuit. Ledbetter is a fervent supporter of equal pay and has been quoted as saying, “Men are on board for equal pay for equal work, because of their mothers, wives, daughters and sisters […] This is a family issue. Equal pay would boost the economy also, because women spend their money on their families.”

The excitement that comes with this country working to pursue a policy for fairness in the workplace brings hope that reforms will soon bridge the gap. The problem is not yet resolved, but this year’s events have no doubt demonstrated a step in the right direction. As the issue of equal pay gains momentum, it is clear that our nation is on the precipice of long-awaited change.

By Ariana Feiner

Photo by Bike Rider London| Shutterstock

Ariana Feiner is the author and creator of It’s a Jolly Holiday With Ariana.

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