Former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy remembers the first time she discovered the gender pay gap. She was a college student working for the federal government during the summer, when in casual conversation, she discovered her male coworker’s pay grade was higher than hers.
“My boss explained to me that [my male coworker] had ‘management potential.’ Evidently, I did not,” she recalls. “We were both in college. I was, in fact, doing a more technical job as a mathematician working on a manuscript involving Boolean algebra. He moved around from one office to another week after week learning what different offices did.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Murphy has made equal pay the main focus of her professional and political agenda. She is the author of Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It, a member of professional women’s community The Boston Club, and the founder of the WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Project, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending workplace discrimination against American women.
In 2014, Murphy was also appointed by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh to co-chair the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, which works with companies in the city on ending wage inequality. So far, 110 companies have signed a pledge to release payroll information by this summer. Murphy is excited about the initiative and says Walsh’s efforts have been “brilliant.”
Massachusetts women’s fight for wage equality is just a small part of a longstanding national conflict, namely the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, which has never been ratified despite being drafted by suffragist Alice Paul in 1923.
Paul’s 24 words — “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” — were met with strong opposition. The closest the amendment ever came to making it into the Constitution was in 1972. That year, it was passed in both the House and the Senate and was subsequently sent along to the states, 38 of which were required to ratify it within seven years. That deadline was extended by three years, but it was not enough. By 1982, the ERA had been ratified by only 35 states, just three shy of the necessary number.