Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Demand Your 23 Cents: Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

The statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes doesn’t mean much to me anymore.  I’ve heard it so many times that I don’t even think about it.  On the surface, 23 cents hardly seems worth making a fuss over.

But it is worth making a fuss, and a big one at that.  Maybe instead of saying women make 77 cents on the dollar, we should say that women earn almost a quarter less than men in comparable jobs.  Worse yet, women of color make a little over half as much as white men.  Imagining my salary with an extra twenty-five percent on it suddenly makes those 23 cents on the dollar very relevant to my life and livelihood.

When I’ve mentioned the wage gap to acquaintances, some tell me that it exists because women choose lower-paying professions, don’t stay in school for as long, have less experience, or choose to stay home with children instead of working.  But according to a Catalyst study, male MBAs fresh out of business school, earned $4,600 more in their first year on the job than their female, childless counterparts (you can read the news story here).  It’s an inescapable conclusion: employers still pay women less than they deserve.
Since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, the wage gap has decreased by just a half of a cent each year.  Frankly, that’s not enough.  Women are still cheated out of an average of $10,622 each year.  What could you do with an extra ten thousand dollars next year?

Not only would equal pay improve individual women’s lives, it would benefit the country as a whole.  If women’s pay were equal to men in their same jobs, with their same experience, we could cut the poverty levels in this country in half.  In this economic climate, that’s no small thing.  At the moment, nearly four in ten single mothers live in poverty.  An extra 23 wents could go a long way towards providing for the families that rely on their wages to survive.

Not only do we need fair pay, we deserve it.  We deserve to be treated as equals, and so do our daughters, granddaughters, and all the women who will come after us.  We’ve earned that extra 23 cents.

The Paycheck Fairness Act will come up for a vote in the Senate this week. This bill is a crucial step towards pay equity.  Call your senators today and tell them that you’ve earned your 23 cents, and you want them to help you get it.

Contact your senators through 9to5's Action Alert, or call them at 1-877-667-6650. 

By Beth Miller, 9to5 Lutheran Volunteer

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