Same Job but Less Pay for a Mother

June 09, 2014

A woman's picture next to the words "I am worth more."When Melissa’s position in city government was eliminated due to a slowdown in new construction, the city offered her a different job. She gladly accepted, without knowing she could negotiate her salary or feeling like she was in the position to do so. She and her husband had a house payment and a 1-year-old son. They needed the income.

Melissa’s salary as the city’s new historic preservation planner was $34,000 a year. She learned that her predecessor had made about 32 percent more, $45,000 a year. Her job — in title and duties — was identical to the job he’d had, but the position description differed slightly.

“They actually rewrote the job description to give it to me like that,” she said. “They told me it was because I didn’t have planning credentials, but I have always wondered if they didn’t rewrite it so they could justify the lower wage.”

Although she did not have a degree in planning, Melissa had a master’s degree in a field relevant to her new position — heritage resources.

“I still knew what was going on and how to do all the work,” she said.

In Graduating to a Pay Gap, AAUW found that just one year out of college, when workers are virtually equal in age, education, and family responsibilities, a gap of almost 7 percent already exists between women’s and men’s wages in the same occupation. This gap exists after controlling for factors known to affect earnings, such as major and hours worked.

"Would you like a 7% raise?" with cash on a serving tray.

“I wish I had known his salary when I took the job, because I would have said, ‘No, this is wrong. No, thank you,’” she said. “I didn’t know any better, and I had to feed my family.”

At that time, Melissa was her family’s primary earner, as are four in 10 mothers today. Melissa’s husband bartended at night and stayed home with their son during the day because they could not afford child care.

Unfortunately, working mothers often experience a gender pay gap. It takes almost an extra six months — or until June 12 in 2014 — for working mothers’ wages to catch up with working fathers’ wages from the previous year. Working mothers typically are paid 69 cents for every dollar working fathers are paid.

The pay gap Melissa experienced had huge ramifications for her family’s future. Her family ultimately left that city to move to her husband’s home state of Louisiana.

“If we would have been making that much more a year, we wouldn’t have had to do that,” she said.

Not only did her family move to Louisiana, but she also became a stay-at-home mom for a few years, and now Melissa is in school at Louisiana State University, Alexandria, to be a veterinarian. At LSUA, she’s involved with AAUW because her experience with the gender pay gap ignited her passion for being a champion for women.

Melissa is just one of many mothers who have experienced the pay gap. Read Eileen’s story.

Elizabeth Owens By:   |   June 09, 2014

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