Equal Pay Act RenovationJune 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.
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.
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.