Denied Fair Pay, She Became an AdvocateApril 08, 2013
Maxine Lampe heard more than once in her career as an educator that her gender meant she deserved less pay. Years later, she’s retired but still educating — and this time her subject matter is the gender wage gap.
Lampe started her career as a teacher in the early 1970s. Her husband was still in graduate school, so she was the sole breadwinner. But the school district she worked for refused to give her the head-of-household pay that men received.
“I said, ‘I’m head of household because I’m earning income for the two of us,” Lampe said. But the school administrators said “‘No, no, no. Because he’s in graduate school, you’re not the head of household.’ That just really angered me.”
When Lampe went into public school administration, she found once again that her gender — and marital status — was a factor in her pay. While trying to negotiate her salary, one of the board members told her, “You don’t need as much pay because your husband is a professor and you have enough money.”
That didn’t sit well with Lampe. “I should be paid for the work I’m doing regardless of what my husband is doing,” she said.
Today, through her role as president of AAUW of Iowa, Lampe helped with a study that showed pay differences exist between male and female technology employees at area education agencies (AEA) in Iowa. Lampe said she recommended that the study focus on AEAs because they are subject to limited oversight.
Jim Addy of Mapping Strategies in Des Moines led the study, which showed that although women in AEA technology jobs in Iowa had more experience (12.7 years to men’s 11.4 years), they were paid an average of $59,548 to men’s $71,093. Now that Lampe has seen the numbers, she wants action.
“We really feel like there needs to be oversight, and logically the legislature needs to be that oversight,” she said.
Momentum around the study is just starting to build — the Des Moines Register wrote about it recently — and Lampe said she hopes to get it on the governor and lieutenant governor’s radar.
“Because those are technology jobs and the governor and lieutenant governor are so enamored with STEM, you need to make sure these issues don’t arise for girls,” Lampe said.
An AAUW analysis of 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data shows that in many science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs — and most other fields — women continue to be paid less than men. This may hinder efforts to recruit women to STEM, where they are already underrepresented.
Just as Lampe and the rest of AAUW of Iowa are urging the legislature there to take action on equal pay, the AAUW national office and branches nationwide will mark Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, April 9, by urging Congress, President Barack Obama, and state and local governments to take action on pay equity. And just like Lampe’s work didn’t stop when she retired, our action won’t end with Equal Pay Day. The fight is ongoing.