As an organization, we empower women to seek equal treatment in all manners under the law. AWIS supports our members whether it is negotiating for equal pay, helping them get employers to comply with workforce standards such as access to lactation facilities and maternity leave, or giving them the tools they need to handle any other instance where gender based discrimination remains a problem. One of the lingering issues AWIS members face is unequal pay for equal work. Women make up half the workforce and are 40% of the primary breadwinners in this country, but women working full-time still only earn 77 cents on the dollar made by a man (the gap has closed by only 18 cents over the past 50 years). Some of this is due to career choices, but even when all other differences are taken into consideration, some of the gap cannot be explained by anything but discrimination.
Today, April 8, is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing the extra number of days into the following year a woman must work to equal a man’s pay for the previous year. Gender discrimination in pay is a smaller issue in STEM than it is for many other fields, but it is still an issue nonetheless. Helping teach women to negotiate more effectively is not sufficient to end this discrimination. Women executives at the highest levels of S&P 500 companies, presumably some of the most gifted negotiators in the world, still make 18% less than their male counterparts. If they can’t close the gap at those levels with that kind of talent, how can anyone reasonably expect women to do so at lower levels when it is still a fireable offense at many companies to even try to find out what their other colleagues earn? Secrecy is one of the biggest impediments to fair pay; if people can’t ask how much others are making, they cannot reasonably be expected to empower themselves to close the gap.
President Obama will be signing two executive orders today to encourage transparency and thus reduce gender based wage discrimination. One order will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries, though this only effects companies that get government contracts and funds. The other order is a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report data on salaries, broken down by sex and race, to the government. Lastly, he will make a speech encouraging the senators to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which they are voting on today. This bill contains similar provisions to the executive orders.
What can you do to help? In less than two minutes of your time, you can ask your members of Congress to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. This link will send a letter of your own or a form letter to your representatives based on your address. It shouldn’t require espionage and subterfuge for women to make sure they are being paid fairly.
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