In 1963, the Federal Government of the United States enacted the Equal Pay Act that effectively illegalized payment of different salaries to men and women for similar work on jobs that need similar qualification, effort, and responsibility and are performed under identical work settings.
A year after the act was enacted, the Civil Rights Act was passed and this illegalized the favoritism of workers on the basis of race, religion, color, or sex. Under these law amendments, it is illegal to pay women less than their male counterparts for equal amounts of work done, this includes job transfers, promotions, or pay increases; influence of job evaluations to disfavor women; or deliberately discriminate males and females into jobs based on their gender (AFL-CIO, para. 1).
More than 4 decades after these legislations were passed, women continue to receive less wages than men, especially in the private sector. The National Committee on Pay Equity reports that women still earn three quarters of what their male counterparts do. The percentage earning for colored women is even more appalling; African American women earn 67.5 % of what men earn, Latinas’ receive 57.7%, while Asian Americans receive 90%, all figures relating to the 2010 Census results (NCPE, para. 1, 2). It is not fair to pay women lower wages than men as both genders have the same ability and perform similar work under the same conditions.
State census data further indicate that females in full-time employment receive less than men in similar positions in every state, although the pay gap differs. This trend continues despite the same statistics indicating that 40% of women were the principal breadwinners for their families in 2009 (NCPE, para. 3, 4). It is for these factors that I am writing this letter to inform the state of women’s grievances.
Many private firms and businesses have failed to perform equal pay audits. Any employee who raises the question of equal pay in such organizations risks his job. Monitoring such firms becomes difficult as they are under no legal obligation to make their pay statistics public. Moreover, the businesses operate robust ventures in more than one state and this creates a hurdle in attempts to look into the disparity between women and men’s wages.
When such disparities are detected in these corporations, proving that they are a result of gender discrimination is not easy. The management in these corporations base the disparity on factors such as education and level of experience. Other reasons given include the high earnings of a few white males, and gendered patterns of occupational and career choice (Bates, para. 5).
These claims are meant to make women comfortable with the wage gap- and possibly believe that they can avoid this situation by making similar educational, career, and wage-negotiation choices similar to those of men. Such content is unjustifiable. While it is true that pay is directly proportional to one’s educational status, using it to justify lower pay for women is totally unfounded.
Data from US Census shows that gender pay gap widens with increasing levels of education, for example, women earn 60% less than their male counterparts do in similar positions for those with a professional degree, 75% for doctorate degree, 72% for master’s degree, and 75% for bachelor’s degree, and so on (Lips, para. 3).
Another reason forwarded as a reason for pay gap between men and women is that of wrong selection of occupations. This is a fallacy. Women earn less than men in every career category. Information from the Bureau of Labor shows that only four career categories indicated comparable wages between men and women, the rest exhibit great disparity.
Therefore, shifting into higher paying jobs, whether male dominated or not, may not be a solution to the pay disparity (Lips, para. 5). Psychologists have repetitively shown that jobs related with women or need stereotypically female expertise are taken to be of a lower cachet and merit lesser pay than those related with men and need masculine expertise (Slipp, pp. 74).
Another reason given for wage differences between men and women is that women do less work than men. This may be true as gender pay studies focus mainly on full-time employees, however, a look at wages of male and female employees who work for at least 40 hours in a week exposes that the gap widens with increasing hours of work.
Women working 41 to 44 hour in a week earn 15% less than men in the same category while those working more than 60 hours per week earn 21.7% less. In addition, women have to work longer to receive promotion. For instance, female teachers have to work three years more than men to receive promotion as principal, according to the National Center for Education.
Past studies reveal that gender pat disparity is not likely to end any soon. There is a minor drop in the gap from data collected since the 1960s and this calls for urgent government intervention. One way of reducing the gap in the private sector would be to compel these firms to make public their pay audits and provide stiff penalty for firms that are found guilty of this conduct. The steps taken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in combating gender pay gaps are commendable, but more needs to be done.
AFL-CIO. It’s Time for Working Women to Earn Equal Pay. 2010. Web. December 3, 2010.
< http://www.aflcio.org/issues/jobseconomy/women/equalpay/ >
Bates, Karen. Equal Pay Warning For The Private Sector. September 2, 2010. Web. December 3, 2010.
< http://www.footanstey.com/index.cfm/solicitors/News.Details/news_id/1562 >
Lips, Hilary M. The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations. 2008. Web. December 3, 2010.
< http://www.womensmedia.com/new/Lips-Hilary-gender-wage-gap.shtml >
NCPE (National Committee on Pay Equity). Wage Gap Remains Static. November 18, 2010. Web. December 3, 2010.
< http://www.pay-equity.org/ >
Slipp, Samuel. The Freudian Mystique: Freud, Women and Feminism. New York: NYU Press, 1995. Print.