Gender Wage Gap Proposal Letter

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500

Wage Gap Proposal Letter

5/12/2017

Dear President Donald Trump,

America has come a long way from once treating women as property and not allowing them to vote or have the same rights as their male counterparts. Present day women enjoy most of the same legal rights as men, except for mandated equal pay. The gender wage gap remains one of the worst injustices against women and I’m writing to urge immediate political action to redress this wrong. Currently, women with the same qualifications, education, and experience earn a whopping 79 cents to the man’s dollar.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 mandated that employers could not discriminate based on sex. Sadly, although women make 80 center to the man’s dollar (a 20 percent gap), this is still considered progress. When the Equal Pay Act was enacted, women earned 59 cents to the dollar compared to men. At this slow rate of increase, America won’t close the wage gap for over another 100 decades. Due to the vague language in the Equal Protection Act, it is difficult for women to actually prove that they were paid less than their male counterpart because of their gender. Thus, it encourages women to keep quiet and not even bring it to the attention of the administration. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if the employer violates the EPA, they must pay two years of retroactive pay to the plaintiff, which isn’t that harsh of a consequence and is not much of a deterrent for sexism in the workplace. At the very least, the Equal Protection Act needs a drastic makeover in order to close some of the loopholes that are allowing companies to discriminate against their employees based on sex.

First, why should we think the gender wage gap is unjust? After all, some argue that gender disparities in earned wages simply reflect women’s different and less ambitious lifestyle choices. This wage gap is supposedly the result of women’s life choices, which fails to question the conditions under which people make specific “choices” and the extent to which these so-called “choices” are manipulated by gendered social pressures. Women are expected to be the primary caregivers and responsible for their families, while also enduring the internal pressures that women place on themselves in order to fulfill these roles. This argument also plays into societal ideas that assumes making choices to care for or value family entail less ambition or commitment to a career. On the flip side, even women who have chosen not to have children that are simply fulfilled in life by their daily work are also not paid as much as the man. This exposes the lie of the choice argument as it is no longer related to the choices of the woman, but how women are seen as less competent workers than men.

Therefore, it isn’t a matter of life choices. It also isn’t necessarily a women’s issue, but a human’s issue. Women aren’t the only ones who have to make life choices or have families. Obviously, men also get married and have children, yet because they aren’t expected by society to stay home with the children, they are still treated as humans. Some may defend the gap due to a higher turnover rate amongst women because of family matters, pregnancies, maternity leave, etc. Even if there is a higher turnover rate, this doesn’t give warrant to pay women less.

Another argument is that women are purposely avoiding education and jobs and therefore are not being paid as much. Even if women receive higher forms of education, they are still not paid equal to men. In other situations, women aren’t exposed to higher education and jobs because they are coerced not to. Gender socialization has told women what they need to be and how to be successful at being a woman, which doesn’t entail having ambition or a career. Women are pressured by society to choose careers or, “semi-professions”, such as teaching which are less threatening to the sexist order.

The gender pressures that may encourage women to choose more flexible, part-time, less lucrative employment — or make people fear that women will choose these things, and so be unreliable workers have a flip side. These gender expectations free up the man’s time to excel in the workplace. Men are expected to be the breadwinners and earn the money for the house. More value is placed on the individual who makes more money, which is typically the man. If women are expected by society to do more housework, men then have more time to work, receive promotions, and more money, which also leads to more power over the woman in the household.

The EPA is clearly not as effective as it was intended to be due to suspected loopholes buried within the act. The act allows companies to pay men higher on the basis of ‘hard work’, ‘productivity’, or any other factor that they can use other than sex. Thus, we use gender as a lens in order to distinguish who is hardworking and who is not. Women, in particular, are frowned upon in the workplace if they take time off for family matters. Slaughter discusses that some of the women she comes into contact with have to make up a neutral type of excuse so that their peers don’t view them as inferior for leaving work early for family. It is difficult for women to plan their careers while also trying to start a family as they are the ones required to take care of the family even if they are passionate about their careers. The same cannot be said for men as they are only expected to be the breadwinners of the family.

In Slaughter’s article, she specifically focuses on the highly-educated and well-off woman, however, this type of phenomena still holds true for those who are single parents with difficult circumstances. Many times, females are the single parents and their time is even more limited due to the fact that they are mandated to work in order to put food in their child’s mouth. The single mothers then, will need to put their child in daycare, which requires more money and even less time they will be able to spend with their child. Many black and Latina mothers must bring in the income for their families and many female-headed homes are the most likely to be poor. In these circumstances, it is cruel that women are still making less than their male counterparts. If women were paid equally, specifically black and Latina women, we could raise the wages of most of America’s low-income families. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), in 2015, Hispanic and Latina, African American, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian and other native women had lower median annual earnings compared with non-Hispanic white and Asian American women. Furthermore, within racial and ethnic groups, African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian women experienced a smaller gender pay gap compared with men in the same group than did non-Hispanic white and Asian American women.

As more women continue to join the workforce, they are still expected to take care of the home and family creating the ‘second-shift’. Some women don’t believe it is possible at all to have a career and family, leading them to choose between the two. As Slaughter explains, there are still a low number of women in top rank positions of the government and an even lower number of women at the top have families. Slaughter suggests half-truth fixes that we hold dear, such as the importance in timing of starting a family. It can also depend on who your partner is and whether they are or aren’t the supportive type. Some even suggest that if you are committed enough, you can make it happen, however, it just isn’t that black and white. Obviously, the gender disparities are unjust creating a double standard for women. Women are either told to plan out the sequence and timing of their lives in order to have a career, or choose between the two — a choice that most men don’t have to make.

Slaughter also concludes that the emergence of more stay at home dads or dads that are “sacrificing” their work for their children is becoming more prevalent within the past few decades. It’s unfortunate that we give the male partner so much credit for sacrificing for their families, whereas, if a female were to do the same, she would be looked down upon. For the men who are still heavily involved in their work, Slaughter provides an interesting comparison of whether this means the male either loves his work more or loves his family less than the female counterpart. Men are still to be considered the breadwinners and thus must work the long hours to complete this “masculine” task. Regardless of whether or not working hours and school hours were synced for children and their working parents to solve the work-life balance problem, there will still be those who will work longer hours and will be thought of as the most dedicated and hard-working employees. This makes it almost impossible for any employee to leave at a fixed time because everyone wants to get to look the best and most dedicated.

In a country that emphasizes equality and individuality, why is there so much resistance to close the wage gap? The wage gap systematically restricts freedom according to Frye. The wage gap harms members of the particular social group of women and is caused by systematic restrictions on freedom that disproportionately benefits another group, which in this case would be men. Women are powerless in these situations because it is difficult to prove that they have been discriminated against based on their sex, especially because the Equal Protection Act is supposed to prevent discrimination.

Does the wage gap perpetuate sexism or is it the result of sexism? From a young age, girls are told that they aren’t as smart as boys, which potentially deters them from going into rigorous career paths. Women are guided by society to choose careers or, “semi-professions”, such as teaching which are less threatening to the sexist order. It is apparent that sexism is at play in these situations when women are to give up their careers to have children. Women are told by society that it is their job, not the man’s, to complete the ‘second shift’ and take care of the nitty-gritty work which is the definition of sexism. Therefore, even if women were to take on less ambitious careers, this doesn’t explain away the pay gap.

Mill discusses inequality on the basis of sex and what constitutes injustice versus unfortunate. The wage gap isn’t something accidental and it isn’t consensual. Rather, it is morally wrong and inconsistent with morality and equality. Women have been systematically oppressed by society and it is time to reform laws and mandate all businesses to be equal opportunity employers and pay men and women equal wages. The wage gap is a deprivation of goods to a particular group and is a deliberate act of sexism. As the tradition of sexism has been passed down, managers or bosses will begin to believe that women are actually incapable of doing work and will show a type of extrinsic sexism.

The wage gap relates to something deeper within society than just money. The disparity between men and women shows that our main value in society is on men. Men are seen as human beings, whereas women aren’t always seen in that light. The fact that women even have to prove themselves reiterates the doubt society places on women to be successful in an intellectual setting. Women are not treated as humans due to the deprivation of goods.

In order to fix this injustice, I urge that companies conduct salary audits to monitor and potentially address these gender-pay differences. Secondly, the Equal Pay Act needs to be updated as it hasn’t been since 1963. The loopholes needs to be closed and there needs to be stronger incentives for employers to follow the law mandating them to close the gender wage gap. Lastly, Congress needs to take action in order for equal pay to occur.

Best regards,

Lindsey Wood