Today Is ‘Equal Pay Day’ For The 3 Percent Of Women Actually Getting Equal Pay

Party down, gals!! 3% of us got it goin’ on!  @Women’sGlib

Party down, gals!! 3% of us got it goin’ on! @Women’sGlib

We were supposed to wear red today, to symbolize, on Equal Pay Day, “how far women and minorities are ‘in the red’ with their pay.”

I did not know this. I have been trudging around in navy blue all day, symbolizing only that I didn’t know till just now that today was, in fact, Equal Pay Day and I was supposed to show solidarity with my unequally paid sisters. Damn! I would have definitely whipped out the red had I known.

The actual date for Equal Pay Day was chosen this year to represent, as the founders of the National Committee On Equal Pay put it:

…how far into 2013 women must work to earn what men earned in 2012. Since Census statistics showing the latest wage figures will not be available until late August or September, NCPE leadership decided years ago to select a Tuesday in April as Equal Pay Day. (Tuesday was selected to represent how far into the work week women must work to earn what men earned the previous week.)

So clearly the ‘day’ assignation isn’t so much about celebration, but more about awareness and continuing focus on the issue. And, of course, wearing red. Which we’ve established I would’ve done. Because showing righteous awareness on this continuing, confounding conundrum of equal pay is worth our sartorial markers. Particularly when statistics show just how little progress we’ve made.

A study by the Center for American Progress, released today, and which compiled wage earning information up to 2011, makes clear that woman are not catching up with men in most areas of employment. While the wage gender gap has fallen since 2000, any real progress has flatlined, with women earning more than men in only 7 out of 534 occupations, the remaining 97 percent earning less, with some occupations earning considerably less. The two tables that follow illustrate their findings:

OccupationWageGap_table1-2 table 2_top 10 occupations with smallest gender wage gap

In studying the numbers, you can see that even in the seven occupations where woman can and do earn more, that differential is very small. From Huffington Post:

Female operations research analysts, for example, earn just $68 more a week than men with the same job — almost 10 times less than the weekly wage gap between female and male chief executives.

Sarah Jane Glynn, senior policy analyst at American Progress, told The Huffington Post that breaking out the wage gap by occupation debunks the notion that women are earning less than men nationally because of “choices they make.”

“When you break the data down like this, it is really hard to make the argument that women want to stay home with their kids and are choosing lowering paying jobs,” Glynn said. “When you are talking about chief executives, for example, you can’t get there without a huge investment.”

Beyond entrenched patriarchy, cultural sexism, and the antiquated notion that most women have husbands as breadwinners and therefore are less needy (a fairy tale that flies in the face of every contemporary view of women and their societal roles!), some see part of the problem lying with women themselves. It seems they’re less likely than a man to negotiate their salary when starting a new job.

Don’t believe that? Believe it.

The National Bureau of Economic Research did a study called, Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations? Evidence from a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment, that found the following:

One explanation advanced for the persistent gender pay differences in labor markets is that women avoid salary negotiations. By using a natural field experiment that randomizes nearly 2,500 job-seekers into jobs that vary important details of the labor contract, we are able to observe both the nature of sorting and the extent of salary negotiations. We observe interesting data patterns. For example, we find that when there is no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men are more likely to negotiate than women. However, when we explicitly mention the possibility that wages are negotiable, this difference disappears, and even tends to reverse. In terms of sorting, we find that men in contrast to women prefer job environments where the ‘rules of wage determination’ are ambiguous. This leads to the gender gap being much more pronounced in jobs that leave negotiation of wage ambiguous.

Which, in a nutshell, means women are less comfortable than men demanding appropriate pay when they’re in the process of negotiating for a new job. Which is a critical point in setting precedent that will likely inform all further negotiations. And women, culturally and genetically imprinted to ‘please,” to “acquiesce,” to “accommodate,” often find it difficult to hold out for what they deserve, to demand what is fair given their experience and skill set. I’ve personally discussed with many of my female peers the engrained discomfort of tough negotiating … for themselves. Negotiating for others is cake; playing hard to get with a potential employer waving a check book tends to be a challenge.

So clearly the message is that we women are going to have to be our best defenders and step up to the demand to… demand. To define ourselves as valuable, worthy employees, partners, associates, etc., and then set the bar at a level commensurate with that value. It’s got to be done. For ourselves. For our female colleagues. For our daughters. For those who follow.

And, frankly, because I don’t look good in red.



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