Pay Equity — Ancient History?

January 12, 2009

At dinner this weekend, I was chatting with a young woman about the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I didn’t expect her to know about Ledbetter, but to my surprise, she didn’t know about the Paycheck Fairness Act or that women make only 78 cents to the dollar a man makes in comparable jobs.

“I think it’s only for a few lower-end jobs,” she stated. Her boyfriend, sitting next to us, chimed in with, “Beside’s it’s 88 cents, not 78 cents.” She nodded in agreement, since, (a) he’s a relatively new boyfriend and (b) “he works on the Hill, so he must know.”

I looked around the table at the other young women, most poised to turn their “quarter-century” birthday in the coming year, some of whom were now silent, listening to us. I too sat silently for a few seconds as I marshaled my knowledge on the subject, looking for an angle that would grab their attention. Straight statistics wouldn’t; detailing the acts themselves wouldn’t; even my own “when I was their age” story wouldn’t, as that ancient history (in their minds) wouldn’t pertain to them.

So I started telling them Lilly Ledbetter’s story. While it covers 30 years, the actions by the courts occurred in this century (ultimately by the Supreme Court in 2007). I told it like a movie plot, leading up to what the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was, in Lilly’s words:

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act … would address my Supreme Court decision by simply making sure that people can challenge discriminatory paychecks as long as they continue to receive them: after all, that’s what Congress intended all along when it passed the Civil Rights Act back in 1964.

There’s something about evoking the Civil Rights Act that still resonates with most. I then ended with a bit of research (couldn’t help myself), talking about AAUWs’ findings, especially in Behind the Pay Gap, as I knew the recentness of the report would have a greater impact. Even the boyfriend was silent. I told them why we were urging anyone interested in fairness to support these acts when they are presented in the Senate and why both are still so important.

The good news? They took Lilly’s story to heart and started asking all kinds of questions. They were incensed that equality has still not been achieved. I told them I would e-mail them the AAUW link not only for information but to take action. I realize that, for many young people, getting a job in their field still has priority over equal pay, especially in today’s economy. But, at the very least, they now know pay discrimination is not just “ancient history.”

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Christy Jones, CAE By:   |   January 12, 2009

9 Comments

  1. Karen Kirkwood says:

    Great article, Christy! Some of our members also believe that pay discrimination is “ancient history.” They think our efforts for equity are old news. Your story is so valuable for us to share as we continue to work on the issue.

  2. Christy, I found your article on “Pay Equity” very interesting….Especially since as Program VP , I have planned a program on the subject of Pay Equity…to be presented by our own State President, Karen Kirkwood.
    Thank you for the great article.
    Yalanda Rishovd
    Program VP – Rochester, MN Branch

  3. christyjones christyjones says:

    Sounds like we need to reinforce with all generations that the issue of pay equity still needs our AAUW community to get out the word so that everyone realizes action still needs to be taken!

  4. CS says:

    During a recent discussion with fellow AAUW members on the progress of the current bills for pay equity I inquired as to why the AAUW appears to be presenting our case for the pay equity bills solely from the perspective of women’s rights. It is also a question of economics as the United States government can broaden its tax base extensively by supporting these bills. Why have we not pointed out this aspect of these bills to the legislators of Congress and the Senate as well as to the general public? In times of dire economic need it is reasonable to look to ways to raise more money to pay for existing and future government programs. This is true at the state and local level as well as the federal level. Providing pay equity enables not only the federal government but those states whose economy depends on the generation of new business from research done in academic settings (California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, etc.) to raise adequate funding for their infrastructure to remain competitive and attractive to other monetary sources.
    I deeply appreciate all that the AAUW has done and is doing to promote past and current legislation for pay equity. If the approach mentioned above has not yet been considered, it may be of use later in other campaigns for equality.

  5. shepard says:

    I read this article “A New Push For Equal Pay” with disgust in my local newspaper. This is a complicated issue full of subtleties that few have much interest in understanding. First of all, statistics are constantly confusing they the wages of all men vs all women rather then equal pay for equal work. The fact is that men and women make nearly the same for the same job and same circumstances. In fact there is a good book out that argues that women make more then men for the same work because of the EEOC blackmail effect. Of course the careers of men are often far different from women and their pay should reflect that. Children rarely have as much effect on men’s careers. You want to see an irate office staff, watch women demanding so-called “pay equality” working barely 35-40 hours per week as they run home to take care of their sick kids, pets and family issues while the bread-winning men with wives raising their children are working 50 to 60 hours in the same job with vastly more effectiveness and dedication. ..then deal with the EEOC crowd who wants to know when she’s going to be promoted because they have to impress some government clown! If you ladies want to pretend this does not happen, so be it. Everyone sit around the drum circle and tell each other how right you are. Anti business bills like this will continue to damage the United States economy and ability to compete in the world market as more meaningless, useless nonsense is extruded out of Washington.

  6. Katherine Melford says:

    What’s the problem with the milk toast moderator allowing some reality on this crappy site? Does dissension “intimidate” or frighten your readers? You chicks are pathetic.

    • As stated in out comment policy, we reserve the right not to post comments to our blog. Your comment was not posted because the office has been closed due to the MLK holiday and Inauguration and no moderator was available. If you feel that we “chicks” are pathetic, please do not continue to read or comment on this blog.

  7. shepard says:

    Don’t worry, I won’t. I was dragged here by that pathetic word loaf in my local newspaper. Continue lying to and fooling each other. I won’t be back until something else sickens me enough to drop by…..hopefully not soon. Respect is earned, it’s not legislated. …and think of your demands and this exchange when 20%+ of your readers are unemployed in a few months.

  8. bikerbernie says:

    I have one question. If it is true that women by far and in large only receive $0.78 on a dollar why is it that businesses do not have all women workers to cut their pay overhead by $0.22?

    b

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