With all the coverage this week of the Senate’s failure to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, the ugly double standard starts to emerge despite the political gamesmanship that tends to take center stage. But this is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats, or good policy or bad policy. It is a case of gender discrimination plain and simple. Look at the facts: women earn 77 cents on the dollar for the same job based on the same experience as men. If you are a minority woman it’s even worse. There are some that call for a major celebration because women’s pay has increased from 1963 where women earned 59 cents on the dollar earned by men, but excuse me if I refuse to throw a party for having a whopping one cent improvement every five years. Some of the excuses for the failure for the bill’s passage have been that it would set up a litigious environment for businesses and employers and I can’t help but think that was the same argument that was used when race was the focus, and more recently age.
The part I find hardest to stomach is the argument that there is a legitimate reason why a woman’s pay is lower than a man’s. Basically, if I follow the “argument” it is because of decisions that women make or for their choice to leave the workforce even temporarily to have children. So this is a situation that we have brought upon ourselves. It fails to recognize that children are propagated by both men and women, and if a financial decision is required, of course the higher wage earner that nine times out of ten is a man, will remain in the workforce. It fails to recognize that as a society we have relegated decisions on the care of our children to the individual with very few societal provisions that provide healthy and nurturing choices for either parent should they want to continue to pursue a career. It fails to recognize that most companies, managers, and policymakers are men and that the glass ceiling is not only real, but in good working order.
Of course many men have the ability to take more risks, more chances, to put career first because rarely do they have the full responsibility for all the other details that make up a full and productive life. They share that responsibility with someone else and the majority of the time it is a woman. Even if that woman has a successful career, it is more than likely that she still manages the kid taxi, the family organizational needs, meal planning, and the social calendar. Her multi-tasking skills enable the man to earn to his full potential, and she is stuck with 77 cents on the dollar for her service, because after all it was her choice.
I have a teenage daughter and there is no argument that passes her muster of why a woman would earn less than a man for the same work. Hopefully her mother’s generation can right that wrong and she won’t have to face a scant two cent improvement ten years from now. As I pore through the statistics I wonder if the record number of women attending college and those getting a post-baccalaureate degree is part of a plot to lower costs for businesses everywhere because soon we will have a very highly educated workforce of women that may continue to be cajoled into doing the same work as men for less. I hope that women will find their voice, whether they work in the workforce or in the home to champion the fact that their contributions have equal value to men. Women do just as much to shape our society now and in the future as men and they should be compensated fairly not only with the size of their paycheck, but with due recognition of all the other duties as assigned.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012