Tired of waiting for Equal Pay? Here are a few things you can do about it.
When you applied for your last job, did HR ask how much you were paid previously? When you were pregnant, were you denied a reasonable accommodation? When you learned of the gender wage gap in your office, were you chastised for discussing it? Are you a tipped-worker, not even making minimum wage? Must you endure racism, sexism, and all manner of other intersectional ignorance in the workplace? Are you finding it hard to break into a male-dominated field? Is your boss refusing to meet with you one-on-one because you are a woman?
If so, then you know all too well that Equal Pay Day isn’t just the day the average woman’s earnings catch up to the average man’s earnings from the previous year, it’s the day women — and those who are supported by them — say enough’s enough!
Regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic class, if you’re a working woman, the fight for equal pay affects you. You deserve to be compensated based on your skill, not your gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or national origin. Fair pay for hard work. Simple, right?
Not so much. Corporate policies, labor law, animus, and cultural barriers all contribute to gender discrimination in the workplace that traps women in a state of economic insecurity. This is especially true for women of color, who have to battle racism and xenophobia in addition to sexism at work.
This year, the gender wage gap is estimated at 80₵ for every $1 made by a man, which means women had to work until April 4, 2017 to earn what men earned by December 31, 2016. That’s an additional 94 days of work — three extra months — and a loss of $10,470. Over a 40-year career, that loss adds up to more than $400,000. And that’s just all women compared to all men on average.
It will be May before we recognize this day for moms, June before we recognize this day for African-American women, November for Latina women, and for some Asian American women equal pay day is more than a year behind. The lifetime loss for these women and their families ranges from $800,000 to over a $1 million.
If indeed women’s spending dollars are the engine of our economy, with losses that large, the gender wage gap isn’t just a problem for women. Closing the gender wage gap would add an estimated $480 billion to our economy and cut poverty for working families in half.
So, why hasn’t it happened, especially given the popularity of the issue? Well, it’s certainly complicated, but part of the answer is that not enough men and women of good conscience have made it a priority when and where it counts — at the voting booth, at work, in our sustained activism, and at the cash register.
But on today, Equal Pay Day, there has never been a better time to start. Here’s what you can do:
1) Demand that your member of Congress and President Trump support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ban the use of prior salary during the interview and hiring process; protect employees from retaliation for discussing pay; close loopholes that allow employers to unfairly justify the gender wage gap; strengthen enforcement under the Equal Pay Act; and create a negotiation skills training program for women and girls. And let them know that you won’t settle for less than the best.
3) Engage on Social Media. You can download a selfie-worthy, state-specific graphic to tweet to your local, state, or federal policymaker, using #EqualPayDay (today) & #EqualPay (thereafter).
4) Support those businesses that have made a public commitment to closing the gender wage gap. And if you are an employer, consider reviewing and updating your practices to ensure you are part of the solution.
Given who’s in the White House, we have an uphill battle to be sure. But at the Women’s March, at international airports, and at town halls across the country, we have shown our power and what our solidarity and commitment can achieve in the fight for equality. On Equal Pay Day and every day our challenge is to continue the push for gender equity and economic security until equality is a reality for all.
Joi Chaney, Executive Director, Equal Pay Today! Campaign (co-posted on Joi’s Medium page)