Skating Toward Wage Disparity

April 27, 2009

What do medicine, anthropology, engineering, and chemistry have in common? These are a few of the majors the women on Princeton University’s ice skating team represent. I was up there this weekend to watch their final event of the season, cheering loudly and watching in awe as Emily Hughes did a guest performance. I was told she goes to Harvard and is training hard to once again represent the United States in the Olympics.

What else do these women have in common? After graduation, they will soon find themselves among other women college graduates who, just one year out of college, earn less than their male colleagues earn, even when they work in the same field. Ten years after graduation, this pay gap widens, as documented in the AAUW study Behind the Pay Gap. Combine race and lower socioeconomic factors with gender, and the gap widens.

I got into a conversation with some of these students about the pay gap, and they didn’t realize that what was true in their mother’s time is still true today. Of course, I talked about the fact that women make only 78 cents, on average, for every dollar a man makes and explained the reasons why there was such a thing as Equal Pay Day, which is being observed on April 28 this year. Many were concerned with simply getting the job they wanted (or in some cases getting accepted into grad school) and were unaware that having good salary negotiation skills would not necessarily protect them from pay discrimination.

Of course, they all were into Twitter, so I told them about the Fem2.0 Twittercast on equal pay held last night with Lisa Maatz, AAUW’s public policy director, as a key speaker — or should I say tweeter in this case? What I loved about the Twittercast was the number of resources participants gave that are useful to all women. I know exams are just around the corner, so competition for time is tough, but I hope one of the students I met took the time to join in. The more we educate all women, the better the chance that these students won’t have to fight the wage gap on behalf of their own daughters.

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By:   |   April 27, 2009

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