Equal Pay Act Renovation

June 04, 2013

One month before the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, I celebrated my eighth birthday. Sailing along, enjoying life as a second-grader, I had no clue that 1963 was to go down in history. For me it was a time I was beginning to notice the outside world, things like the TV show My Favorite Martian and the Allan Sherman recording “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda.” My mother loved watching Julia Child on PBS in her new show The French Chef, and I soon was to be very aware of the Beatles, who were poised to become a huge phenomenon in the United States with the release of “Please Please Me.” Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech just a mile or so from my home later that year, and in November, JFK would be assassinated.

A cartoon of a girl asking her grandmother, "Are you as old as the Equal Pay Act?"

On June 10, 1963, an event happened that I was not aware of and would not know about for many years. President Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act. In the photographs of the signing, we see a crowd of women behind him, all decked out in their fancy hats and pearls (LBJ is obviously having a ball being in the middle of them all). Had I been told about that legislation, it would have meant nothing to me. My mother did not work outside of the home, and I was unaware of the notion that women were not valued equally in our society. When I became a teenager and browsed the want ads, I would look at the column “For Women,” because the ads for jobs were separated by gender. I did not think much about it — that’s the way things were. However, I was perplexed because I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse, secretary, or teacher.

That was 50 years ago. And while I am the first to say that 50 is the new 30, let’s face it: I am kinda old, and so is the Equal Pay Act that President Kennedy signed into law. I admit that the idea of a facelift is intriguing, and I do put some color in my hair. There are many ways a woman in her 50s can mask her age if she so desires.

AAUW members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10, 1963.

AAUW members Minnie Miles (front row, fourth from right) and Reps. Edith Green (left of president, in white suit), Martha Griffiths (second from right), and Julia Hansen (far right) with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10, 1963. CREDIT: Abbie Rowe, White House Photographs. Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

But we don’t have to mask anything when it comes to the Equal Pay Act. It’s not a person; it isn’t vain. It’s legislation, and it can be updated. It’s time to spruce up the Equal Pay Act, make it better. Look, if your kitchen were 50 years old, wouldn’t you renovate — at least get rid of that avocado-colored refrigerator from 1963? But this is not about appliances, it’s about people’s livelihoods. Women are still not paid equally to men; in fact, one year out of college, women already make 7 percent less than men at the same job.

After 1963, and as I grew into adulthood, it took me many years to fully understand the extent of bias toward women in our culture. It is much better than it was in my youth, but there still needs to be change. I now have daughters heading into the workforce. Let’s work to make 2013 — 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed — the year the Paycheck Fairness Act becomes law so we can actually ensure that they, and all other working women, get equal pay for equal work.

This post was written by columnist and cartoonist Liza Donnelly. Learn more about the pay gap and join AAUW in the fight for fair pay.

By:   |   June 04, 2013

1 Comment

  1. Louise Smith says:

    I am absolutely for equal pay.

    But I am also for equal REQUIREMENTS for the job.

    Everyone should have an equal chance to TRY for every job, but we should not lower the “requirements” so that women can get a job previously only done by men.

    If the job REQUIRES being able to lift 200 lbs, it is not fair to only require women to lift 150 lbs. If the job requires 25 pullups, it is not fair to only require 10 from women.

    We are putting our men in danger in some jobs (military is an example) when we allow women who cannot meet the physical requirements into that job just to be “politically correct.”

    I have both a son and a daughter. I want equal treatment and pay for BOTH of them!

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