Women still get paid less
This article was submitted by Allyson M. Lowe and Ashley Ropar of Carlow University, and Sandi DiMola and Danni Petyo of Chatham University.
As women faculty members and graduating seniors, we'd like to stop commemorating Pay Equity Day, which fell this year on Tuesday.
Pay Equity Day marked how far into 2011 a woman must have worked, on average, to earn what a man earned in 2010.
This spring, as young women graduate and prepare to enter the work force, it's time to figure out how to wipe Pay Equity Day from our calendars.
Equal pay laws do not guarantee pay equity. In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was passed, women earned, on average, 59 cents for each dollar earned by men. In 2009, 46 years later -- roughly the span of an average work life -- women earned 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. At this rate of progress, female college graduates from the Class of 2011 won't see pay equity during their work lives; nor will any woman currently in the workplace.
The federal Paycheck Fairness Act, which was reintroduced in Congress Tuesday, would help prevent or reduce gender-based pay discrimination.
The American Association of University Women has for more than a decade advocated passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act as a necessary update to the Equal Pay Act. It would close loopholes, strengthen incentives to prevent pay discrimination and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to show that wage gaps result from factors other than gender discrimination and make the government collect better data on wages while providing salary negotiation training for women.
The bill contains other proactive measures designed to narrow the wage gap, including enforcement of equal pay laws for federal contractors and enhancement of Labor Department outreach and training efforts to help employers eliminate pay disparities.
Our recent conversations with female students in women's and women- centered universities highlight that pay equity is not just a women's issue -- it is every person's issue. Here are some reasons why both men and women should work toward pay equity:
• Closing the gender wage gap would result in significant economic growth. According to Forbes magazine, closing the gap could increase U.S. GDP by as much as 9 percent by putting more money into the hands of consumers. This is of particular significance for Pittsburgh, where female heads of households comprise 74.4 percent of households with incomes below the poverty line.
• Gender-based salary discrimination negatively affects regional competitiveness. According to the Keystone Research Center, while the national wage gap continues to narrow, progress in Pennsylvania has nearly stopped; here, the wage gap has remained stagnant since 2003 -- not exactly a way to attract talented women to the state. This is of particular importance in southwestern Pennsylvania, which is experiencing the dual effects of an aging population and generational "brain drain."
• Gender-based salary discrimination negatively affects household earnings. In dual-income households, pay disparity can mean couples have trouble affording a home, parents find it difficult to pay for tuition and older couples have less money on which to retire. Salary discrimination dilutes generational wealth, while pay equity can help families amass resources to ensure a better future for their children.
• In households where college-educated women are sole wage earners, the pay gap places women at a significant disadvantage in their ability to discharge their student debt burden and recover their educational gains -- the very education that should help to close the pay gap.
• Equal pay is an issue of fundamental fairness and an affirmation of equal economic rights.
So, please, contact your elected officials to support passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
If you're about to enter the workforce, get informed on salary and wage rates in your occupation and don't be afraid to negotiate for better wages.
If you already are in the workforce, educate your employer on how gender-based wage discrimination negatively affects a company's ability to stay competitive.
You can learn more about pay equity and the wage gap in Pennsylvania on the AAUW's website: www.aauw.org.
First Published April 14, 2011 12:00 am