Spring is here, the snow has melted, flowers are blooming and women just today have finally earned as much as their male counterparts did by December 31, 2010.
Yes, it’s Equal Pay Day, the day it takes for women to finally earn as much as men earned in one calendar year. And after all, it only took an extra 15 weeks to get there.
Ms. Magazine celebrates the day with the top four myths about women and pay and why they are completely wrong. From declaring women make less because they choose more flexible careers so they can be with their families to stating that the gender wage gap is over and done with, Ms. breaks down each myth, including the most recent new tale — the recession actually hurt men more than women.
The recent economic recession was dubbed a “mancession” because the male-dominated construction industry took the first major blow. But now it’s women’s jobs that are disproportionately on the line as cuts to professions such as education and nursing are becoming more frequent. Even as the unemployment rate has dropped again, to 8.8 percent for the general public, it’s still 12.3 percent for women who maintain families.
Women are also less likely to have jobs that come with important fringe benefits such as paid sick days and employer-sponsored retirement benefits. Without such benefits, women’s ability to save money for a rainy day is hindered, leaving them more economically vulnerable when they lose their jobs.
Over at Women’s ENews, a few disturbing facts about the gender pay gap, and how it’s beginning to hit at a younger and younger age:
Gender disparities in child labor are startling. In the 16-19 age group 176,000 boys in 2010 were paid below the minimum wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For girls last year the number was 304,000.
Fully 12 percent of young women, versus 6.9 percent of young men, are already paid sub-minimum wages. These teens mostly work in food preparation or serving, with jobs such as burger flipping, hash slinging, French frying and soda jerking with the highest levels of teen employment and sub-minimum wages.
Republicans in several states (Utah, Ohio, Minnesota, Maine and Missouri) are proposing sweeping changes to child labor legislation, including allowing sub-minimum wages for workers under the age of 20.
At the $5.25 per hour rate proposed by Maine Republicans, young women wouldn’t get to equal pay day until June.
Ellen Bravo, writing at Women’s Media Center, provides a powerful argument for why we need equal pay and opportunities for women and how those changes benefit everyone.
Pay equity will require a number of solutions, starting with the most basic: stop allowing higher-ups to pay women less or pass them over for promotions. Which means an end to chief executives defending themselves by saying, “But I didn’t tell district managers to discriminate!” Instead, judges and government agencies need to be asking, “What steps did you take to make sure they did not?”
Still, that’s only one solution. We need to revalue the work women do so that those employed to care for young children and damaged families are compensated similarly to those who care for cars and computer chips.
We need to make it possible for all workers who have caregiving responsibilities — including for themselves — to have paid time off for routine and preventive care, and affordable leave to care for a new child or a serious personal or family illness.
We need to establish equity in pay and benefits for part-timers and temps. And we need to remove barriers from collective bargaining — union workers have the lowest gender wage gap.
Who will benefit? Women, of course. But also men whose families will have more money and whose own working conditions will be improved as a result.
The pay gap has narrowed now to 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes, a chance of 3 cents in five years. At this rate, we could have parity by…2050.
Photo: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html via Wikimedia Commons
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