As the self-identified party of small government and "maximum economic freedom and the prosperity freedom makes possible," Republicans have been working hard to restrict women's rights and coerce them to conform to traditional roles, such as abstaining from sex until marriage, getting married, having babies, and ideally, relying on their husbands to support them. Their opposition to paycheck fairness bills is consistent with these efforts. Although, the pay gap is in contradiction with encouraging productivity, economic activity, and the American Dream that the GOP is allegedly trying to promote or restore. However, on the other hand, the GOP may just be referring to pursuing prosperity without the presence of integrity and fair and free competition, which would make their opposition to paycheck fairness bills more consistent with their claims.
Making 79 Cents To Every Dollar Made By Men Women in the U.S.A. to date make approximately 79 cents to every dollar made by men. The reasons for the discrepancy are complex. However, they include historically- and culturally-ingrained sexism exhibited, among other means, through a lack of appreciation for women's contributions to society, limiting gender roles, and (subsequent) discriminatory treatment. It must be noted here that sexism not only influences society's and/or men's view of women, but also the way women perceive themselves. Later in this post, we will discuss how women consciously and/or subconsciously contribute to the status-quo and subsequently, how they can improve their situation through increased awareness and confidence.
Efforts to counteract wage discrimination are not new. President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits "discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages." However, the Act has not been sufficient. Therefore, wage discrimination continues into the 21st century.
Educational And Professional Attainments Of Women In The U.S.A. The discrepancy in earnings is hardly due to a lack of education, qualifications, or participation in the job market. Women make up approximately 50.8 percent (2010, see Table 1) of the U.S. population and 46.8 percent of the total U.S. workforce. In 2009-2010, females represented 57.4 percent of students receiving a bachelor's degree and 62.6 percent of students receiving a master's degree. In spite of their attainments, women are often locked in traditional female roles, under-represented in traditional male roles, and paid less than their male peers in similar positions. The impacts of loss in salaries accumulate over time and have detrimental economic consequences, particularly for single women and single mothers, which includes their increased likelihood of living in poverty at advanced age.
GOP: Denying Women Their Economic Rights To date, the GOP has been consistently blocking paycheck fairness bills (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) introduced by the Democrats, claiming, among other that, such anti-discriminatory laws would lead to litigation, or that managers who were not involved in the discrimination would become liable after the responsible manager leaves the organization, as if any such arguments come close to outweighing what the legislation is supposed to do: help eliminate economic discrimination based on gender. In her most recent effort in 2015, Senator Mikulski introduced another paycheck fairness bill, S.862, which can be expected to be thwarted by the GOP, too.
The GOP is not only adamantly preventing the Democrats from passing any legislation that would help women gain economic equality, they are also overturning progress, as in the case of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who repealed the Wisconsin Equal Pay Law and apparently changed his stand on paycheck fairness later. Republicans must have changed their minds altogether, as they recently introduced a watered-down version of a paycheck fairness bill - the Workplace Advancement Act, "which would make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for talking to each other about their salaries."
While Congress is continuing to play politics at women's expense, some states such as Connecticut, Delaware, North Dakota, Oregon and California, have acknowledged the urgency of this problem and have passed their own equal pay legislations. Several additional states have introduced similar bills and are awaiting results.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Of 2009 One of the most significant victories on the path to equal pay for equal work, since the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, also opposed by the majority of Republicans and signed into law by President Obama. Under the new law, each paycheck resets the 180-day statute of limitations for filing a complaint, making it much more realistic to hold employers who engage in wage discrimination responsible for their actions and the subsequent damages they cause.
Understanding The Bigger Picture Critical To Understanding The Need For Intervention - U.S.A. Lags Behind Iraq, Namibia, Mozambique, Afghanistan Due to the deeply rooted and persevering nature of sexism, courageous intervention and progressive policies that address the issue directly, as well as indirectly, are indispensable, as demonstrated by many other countries, such as Germany, Norway, and France, that went as far as introducing quotas to increase representation of women, which is one of many steps toward gender-economic equality.
Understanding the overall picture of women's standing in the U.S.A. is crucial to understanding wage inequality. A comparative analysis to developments abroad can help illustrate the situation better: women are not only compensated unfairly compared to their male counterparts, but they also substantially lack representation and voice. For example, women represent only approximately 19 percent of members of the U.S. Congress. In terms of women in the national legislature, the United States ranks 76th in the world, behind countries such as Iraq, Namibia, Mozambique and Afghanistan. In her more than 200 years of history, the United States has not had a female leader, which leaves her behind countries like Turkey, India, Pakistan, Germany, Malawi, Kosovo, and the list goes on.
Under-Represented In Traditional Male Roles While Continuing To Occupy Traditional Female Roles Besides in politics, women are also under-represented in U.S. board rooms. They only occupy 4.4 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies. Barriers for women exist also in other senior and executive level positions while being under-represented in other traditional male roles. Within competitive examining and student new hires for federal government occupations, males account for 80 percent of information technology, 83 percent engineering, and 92 percent law enforcement. Women continue to occupy traditional female roles, such as elementary or middle school teacher, while "secretary" remains the most common profession to date for women in the U.S.A. The lack of voice and opportunity for women is a noteworthy situation for a country with such an enormous economic and political impact, particularly when we consider which countries precede her in this arena.
Combat Gender Pay - Raising Awareness, Empowering Women Regardless of the complexity of why the wage gap exists, awareness and empowering women is crucial to gender equality. Research shows that women tend to value their work lower than men, are more reluctant to take credit for what they do, rarely negotiate their salaries or ask for raises, are more willing than men to give up or interrupt their careers for the sake of their partners and children, subordinate their needs to the needs of others and the list goes on. The self-defeating aspects of such attitudes are logical consequences of sexism; they are learned behaviors; taught by parents, enforced in communities and strengthened in many aspects of public life throughout history. In addition to these learned attitudes, there are also various practical reasons why women have fewer opportunities than men: women are less likely to have mentors and be favored by the "good old boy's network" that to date determines access to professional opportunities, and once again, the list goes on.
Opponents of paycheck equity laws often argue that such laws are offensive to women as they assume that women are not equally qualified to prove themselves in the job market and ask for what they deserve. In an ideal world, this would exactly be the case. However, we don't live in an ideal world. We don't even live in a world where a woman (or a man for that matter) can always freely negotiate her salary.
Perpetuating A Vicious Cycle - When Employers Base Future Pay On Current Income Employers often inquire about salary history, on which they base their offer. Even federal employers base future pay on current income. Such requests for disclosure, however, particularly affect women negatively. They enforce the vicious cycle of previous discrimination to which women and minorities are more likely to be subjected to, making it even more difficult for women to improve their situation, regardless of whether they are improving their negotiation skills and asking for the money they deserve. Contrary to preconceived notions, getting a raise or a desired salary is also not as easy as asking for it, when the inquirer is a woman. When women ask for raises, they can be perceived as demanding. They can also be treated unfavorably for negotiating their salaries.
Moving Forward Most jobs today are very specialized and narrowly focused. Everyone who is hired is expected to be qualified and do a good job. There is hardly any reason that justifies the immense pay gaps for doing the same or a relatively similar job, as we see today. And if there is such a discrepancy in performance when doing the same job, that discrepancy should not be determined by gender.
The complex issue of the wage gap is difficult to solve as it is a historical, and subsequently, a structural problem, deeply ingrained in every aspect of our lives; it is certainly not one that is going to go away any time soon. By acquiring the skills and qualifications they need, women have done their part to gain access to opportunities and privileges that men always had. Now the society needs to do its part: take responsibility and provide them with a discrimination-free environment to make the most out of their potentials. Women don't need pity, and they don't need sympathy; what they need is equality of opportunity, opportunity to prosper like any other man. Let's pass the Paycheck Fairness Act!