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Despite the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Wage Gap Widens

Despite the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Wage Gap Widens

It looked like progress on paper. The year started out with a new president and the first bill he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Next, economists predicted that the number of women would equal, and perhaps surpass, the number of men on the national payroll. But the reality isn’t so encouraging.

 

The Lilly Ledbetter Act reversed a Supreme Court ruling from 2007 by giving employees a longer window to file discrimination claims. It is an important piece of legislation, but not the only piece.  Another bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would strengthen the Ledbetter Act by closing loopholes that allow retaliation against workers who disclose their wages, among other things. This key piece of legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in July, 2008. The Senate, however, hasn’t advanced it in more than a year.

 

The number of women on the payroll doesn’t mean women are advancing either. It merely means traditionally male-dominated jobs have been hit harder by the recession than the jobs that women tend to occupy.  We already knew that those women are being paid less than men doing comparable jobs, and now, the new data paints an even more disturbing picture.

 

The gender wage gap has widened according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. In 2007, women earned, on average, 78 cents for every dollar a man earned. In 2008, they earned 77 cents. That’s the same amount reported in 2005. So not only have we made no gains in closing the wage gap over the last three years, we have slid backward and only closed the gap a total of 18 cents in 45 years (since The Equal Pay Act made wage discrimination on the basis of sex illegal).

 

The U.S. Census Bureau has posted an interesting graph based on The American Community Survey, a nationwide survey that looks at demographic, social, economic, and housing data annually. Even thought it estimates the wage gap to be an average of 22 cents nationwide, it identifies a number of states where the gap is much bigger. In Wyoming, for example, women earn only 64 cents for every dollar a man earns. And the gap is 24 cents or less in at least 17 states.

 

We cannot be fooled into a false sense of advancement by headlines that tout working women reaching milestones or the benefits of women’s advancement.  If women become the primary breadwinners and those women’s wages are stuck at 77 percent of men’s, than everyone suffers. Families must get by on less and fewer dollars will flow into the economy.  That is not the recipe for a strong recovery. Nor is restoring men to their jobs at the expense of women. There is a growing body of research from organizations including Catalyst, Ernst & Young, and McKinsey that shows more women at the top of business can only help a company’s bottom line.

 

But women are not advancing financially. They are losing valuable ground. There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “A penny is a lot of money, if you have not got a penny.”

 

Pay equity makes sense, not just for women, but for the recovery. Let your legislators know, we refuse to lose any more ground. Take action by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, which would bring pay increases to women through union membership. Sign the petition letter to Congress!


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17 comments

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8:29PM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Capitalism sucks. A few people get insanely rich while most people can barely get along. Socialism is a much more equable system - which is why it is virulently attacked here.

3:20PM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

I absolutely despise male privelege and the dominant paradigm of male superiority. Hilarious when you read the neurological studies which show that women use both sides of their brains with equal skill and access while men only have access to one lobe on a regular basis. Also of course there are the recent studies which show that testosterone interferes with rational brain processes. Ye Gods! and men are in charge of this world?!? No wonder Planet Earth is in such a mess.

It is the dominant paradigm which needs "changing"; not the little bandaid solutions which men offer.

3:18PM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

I absolutely despise male privelege and the dominant paradigm of male superiority. Hilarious when you read the neurological studies which show that women use both sides of their brains with equal skill and access while men only have access to one lobe on a regular basis. Also of course there are the recent studies which show that testosterone interferes with rational brain processes. Ye Gods! and men are in charge of this world?!? No wonder Planet Earth is in such a mess.

It is the dominant paradigm which needs "changing"; not the little bandaid solutions which men offer.

12:54PM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

In the continuing war the Republican Party is waging on the American worker, a decision is expected from the Supreme Court this term in Citizens United v. FEC. With Alito and Roberts now on the Court, a century old ruling limiting the amount of corporate money that can be used to influence elections is expected to be overturned. With unlimited corporate cash in the mix, we can expect every advance in workers rights gained in the last century to be at risk. That includes not only the Lilly Ledbetter Act, but minimum wages, the existence of unions, worker health and safety laws, just about any law that benefits workers. The Court did surprise last term by not overturning civil rights laws in a couple of cases. Hope for the best.

12:43PM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

For today's supposed enlightened age, does anyone have the slightest speculation why anyone competing for the same job regardless of gender, race or social status, but all with similar experience, there would be a tier of pay scales dependent on the one who landed the job? Is this the case more so than not at least here in America? Have we not yet conquered that more primitive frame of mind? Does it appear that in the last eight years, not just females, but all employees have been held in the palm of the employer's hand to clinch his fist anytime at his own discretion.

Yes, in weakening labor unions, which in part were the union's fault but in large part from conservative policies, employee's voices, in particular the gender card, has also been greatly weakened in not only income but too, in benefits.

A typical example of the last 8 yrs was when IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano between 2002-2005 laid off 16,066 employees and axed all the remaining employee's pensions. All the while as he was quietly setting up his own pension and retirement in 2006 of $14 million/yr for the rest of his life.

Capitalism is a good thing as long as there are ethics and honestly at the helm. Unfortunatley as of late, American capitalism has changed for the bad in many ways...

12:43PM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Men know one person who always find them a job. As a woman who knows many people, I can not find a "real" job with benifits to save my life. I hate the world I live in. I have a BA in math from CO which is the 2nd highest teacher requirements, but I still have to pass tests in CA in order to teach. I might have fulfilled all the requirements for an intern credential, but the way the state econdemy has affected the education system, the schools that even like me can not hire me because I cost too much until I receive a full CA teacher credential. This waiting while going to school sucks when I have to pay full price to see the doctor or for my monthly medications.

10:57AM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Businesses have all sorts of little scams to pay men more for the same work. All they have to do is change the name of the job to sound more important. A friend of mine was making $35,000 a year, and her title was "office manager.' When she left the job, a man was hired to take her place. He was the office manager, but they changed the title to "office operations officer" and his starting salary was $42,500.

The idea that men support families and women are working for pin money is still out there, and the public buys it. When I was a single mother working as a waitress, I worked in a restaurant with 4 waitresses and 1 waiter. One waitress was a widow with 4 children, 2 were divorced with 2 children each, and I was divorced with 1 child. The waiter was a single, college student who lived at home with his parents and he was working for "pin money", yet he always made about 20% more in tips than we did. The customers went on the assumption that Artie was a "family man" (he was 19) and the women had husbands supporting them. So it's not just employers who are ignorant and dishonest. The public needs to get their heads out of the sand and realize that women need equal pay for equal work. A person's marital status should have nothing to do with it anyway.

10:03AM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Unions might be the answer, except that Reagan eviscerated them back in the 1980s.

9:00AM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Despite the heavy publicity given to the money "earned by" CEOs, and to the broad political effect on our fiscal status generated by illegal immigrants, corporations continue to swindle female staff, which is one of our most embarrassing national stories. It is just short of the embarrassment accorded by the atomic energy folks, whose days are incomplete unless they can generate a few dozen more bombs, while coming down hard on any other nations who try to emulate our disgusting behavior. Where is the sense of fairness in either of these issues?

8:47AM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Demographically, female inmates have now become the largest group of a growing prison population. The new threat to vulnerable women in that environment is the legion of correctional staff "dykes" who are getting sexual gratification from forcing female inmates to unnecessary strip searches.

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