Yeah, this was a little late. I spent all my blogging time finishing a freelance project so you were cheated out of your first issues post so I could make money. Disgusting. It’ll never happen again. (What will happen is that my three graduate classes will become an excuse. Sad.)
One of my pet issues has become equal pay for equal work. I had one of my “I’m not gonna take it anymore” moments last winter, and have been paying a lot of attention to the issue since then (and promoting it to my female peers).
I’m going to insert a caveat here before I start – I’m talking about gender-based equal pay for equal work because McCain and Obama have clear stances on the issue. Unfortunately, the racial disparities in pay aren’t being addressed explicitly by either candidate so I can’t position them on what they plan to do (if anything) about that gap.
As I have a certain insight into my own industry, I’ll address the argument that is raised by people who want to downplay the significant disparity in male vs. female pay (we women are making 77 cents to the male dollar). People who dismiss this will say “but women leave the workforce to raise children” or “but you’re comparing all jobs and there are more women in lower paying jobs” and I want to make it clear – even controlling for those two things, women still make less.
Take a look at the comments on this feministing article about pay in technology. Don’t even pay attention to the actual story, just read some of the comments. I’ll pull in a couple for you:
I have a friend who like me helps build software who quit her job recently because she found out the man sitting next to her, doing the same thing she was and who had the same seniority, was making $30,000 more.
Both myself and my partner are scientists in the biotech industry, and we are essentially the same level– a Bachelor’s Degree. He’s worked for 1 year longer than I, however, he has consistently made 5-8k more a year than I. He has also always had it “easier,” meaning his bosses have never micro-managed him or made him work extra hours to the extent that my bosses (all male) have. It’s very frustrating to come home at the end of the day and share our experiences… he takes long lunch breaks, never works more than 8 hours, has 1 more week than paid vacation and makes 8k more a year than I. He even had a bonus and a raise at the end of the year (me- nothing). And as I type this, my boss is having me stay late tonight, is irritating as hell and I make so much less, no bonuses, perks, etc. What’s more, I graduated in less than 4 years with a near perfect GPA and a more difficult degree, where he took 6 years, had a horrible average and no undergrad research experience like I did (and yes, we went to the same school).
I worked in IT for academia for nearly 13 years where salaries are a matter of public record (because they are paid by taxpayers). Despite this openness, I found that I have consistently made less than equally qualified men, on the order of $5-10K.
i work at a dotcom and i’ve had the exact same (literally, down to the #) experience as JessicaNOW’s friend. I found out that the guy sitting across from me (who has less experience and skill than i do) was making 30% more. when i found out, i did a salary survey in my area for my job and sent it to the head of HR. in response, they did an investigation and gave me and my female co-worker, who also has the same title but has been here 8 years (i’ve been here 3 and the man’s been here 6 months), a 8% raise. she and i have identical salaries, so he’s still making 20% more than either of us. i also talked to both my supervisor and her supervisor about the salary difference and they both told me there was nothing they could do about it. there’s a general undercurrent of misogyny here – every woman who has risen to any kind of power or who doesn’t tow the line has been marginalized or ground down until she leaves.
If you have access to pay records at your institution, I highly recommend taking a look at them.
Anyway, this can bring us to Obama and McCain. And Lilly Ledbetter.
You deserve some background on this case. I wrote about Ledbetter earlier this year. But, in summary, the Supreme Court ruled because Ledbetter did not file a complaint within 180 days of her first paycheck she couldn’t sue her employer even though she was making almost half of her male equals.
180 days of the first paycheck with a disparity. SIX MONTHS. You would have to figure out the disparity and sue your employer within SIX MONTHS. Any idea how that court case would go? You would be an opportunist. You would most likely lose.
Obama’s stance on issues of equal pay are aligned with women’s priorities. We want equal pay for equal work. Nothing more and nothing less.
Obama was an original co-sponsor of Congress’s attempt to pass legislation that would reverse the result of the Ledbetter case. (NPR) and has outlined his priorities for women’s pay on his campaign website.
Fighting for Pay Equity:
Despite decades of progress, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. A recent study estimates it will take another 47 years for women to close the wage gap with men at Fortune 500 corporate offices. Barack Obama believes the government needs to take steps to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace.
Expanding Paid Medical Leave: Today, three-out-of-four low-wage workers have no paid sick leave. It is fundamentally unfair that a single mom playing by the rules can get fired or lose wages because her child gets sick. Barack Obama supports efforts to guarantee workers seven days of paid sick leave per year, a moderate proposal that should not impose too onerous a burden on employers.
McCain’s stance on equal pay is to not allow legal recourse, but essentially to trust business to do the right thing.
“I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems,” McCain told reporters yesterday. “This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.”
Without legal recourse, there is no way for equal pay to be enforced or even exposed. Without legal recourse, businesses can continue to get the “gender discount” when they hire women. Without legal recourse, we will never close the gender gap in pay because without legal recourse, businesses will not change their practices because they are not held accountable for their practices.
You can read more about Obama’s stances on all kinds of women’s issues at his website.
I would direct you to the part of John McCain’s website that had information about his stances on women’s issues if he had one. I guess the only thing remotely related is the section titled “the sanctity of life” and includes titles like: “Overturning Roe v. Wade,” “Protecting Marriage,” “Protecting Children from Internet Pornography,” and “Protecting Children from Online Predators.” So have fun with that.