When I was growing up, if anyone had asked me about equal pay, I would have shrugged. I thought we were done with equality. After all, if the opportunities were there for women, the compensation must be too. When I learned about the wage gap, I thought it was our (women’s) fault for choosing low paying careers. I became one of those typical females who chose to go into teaching, so I assumed that I should expect to be paid less than my classmates who went into tech or finance.
The latest research, as shared in the New York Times article, As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops, shows that many of these low paying job like teaching, nursing, or social work are low paying precisely because they are considered “women’s work.” Money is a representation of value, and studies show that the value of a job isn’t about the job itself, it is too often about how our society values the person doing the job. This bias leads not only to gender disparity in pay, but racial disparity as well. So while white women right now are making 78 cents to the male dollar, African American women are making 64 cents, and Hispanic women 54 cents.
Celebrating the equal value, and therefore equal compensation of all people, begins with acknowledging the inequalities around us. Join me in putting Equal Pay Day on your calendar this year by having this conversation with your sons and daughters. If they are aware of the injustice in this problem, then they have a chance of being part of the solution, which might allow us to take this day off of our calendars in our lifetime.
6 Ways to Start the Conversation
1. Isn’t unequal Pay about unequal jobs?
Tell that to the US Women’s soccer team, who are earning forty percent of what the lads on the US Men’s soccer team are paid. Watch this video together, then talk about an apples to apples comparison. Read about why the US Women’s Soccer Team is fighting for equal pay.
2. Do we have equal pay in our home?
Watch “Pocket Money”, a social study from ANZ, which captures the reactions of young brothers and sisters after doing the same chore, but not receiving the same payment.
Start a conversation in your household about who does what, and if chores are paid, what each person is paid for chores. If your chores are assigned by gender, see what would happen if you tried a chore wheel.
3. What does this look like globally?
As Melinda Gates said in her 2016 Annual Letter:
Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility.
4. Even in the movies?
Yes, even in the movies. Jennifer Lawrence asks, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” in the Lenny Letter (16 and up). Bradley Cooper responded to this essay by becoming an ally, declaring that he would share his salary information with his female colleagues before production started to support their salary negotiations. Being an ally in the real world is hard, it requires loads of bravery, so knowing and naming the role models is key.
5. What about our jobs?
Have a discussion with your kids, boys and girls about the impact of the gender wage gap in your own career. Look up the gap in your industry on PayScale.com.
6. This isn’t just about gender.
The gender pay gap is worse for women of color. Talk with your kids explicitly about how race impacts the pay gap.