Just two days ago President Obama made news in Pittsburgh by stating that equal pay for equal work not only benefits women, but also benefits families. In April, he signed an executive order that allows federal workers to share salary information and requires federal contractors to disclose more information about what their employees earn. On June 23, the Obama Administration will host a summit in Washington D.C. that focuses on creating a 21st century workplace, which includes equal pay for equal work.
The fact that this is still a topic that is making headlines in 2014 is alarming.
Almost half of the American workforce is female. In more and more situations, women are the primary breadwinners in their families. Pay disparity doesn't just hurt women. It hurts their kids and their families. It hurts all Americans.
Opponents of equal pay have tried many times to explain away the wage gap. The most common argument they offer is that it simply does not exist. Opponents say that pay disparity based on gender is not based on sexism or discrimination, but rather on the choices that women make in terms of education, hours, and children. They argue that it is the biological and social forces that lead to a pay gap and therefore there is no point in pushing through legislation that could not possibly combat these realities. Opponents claim that discrimination isn't the cause of the pay gap and that laws combating discrimination are not the solution.
Thankfully, the modern workplace has advanced beyond Mad Men-style sexism. However, this does not mean that discrimination is no longer a factor.
Senior advisers at the Department of Labor agree, "Discrimination is the best explanation of the remaining difference in pay." Economists across the political spectrum attribute at least 40 percent of the pay gap to discrimination, not differences between workers or their jobs.
Sexual discrimination and the pay gap it causes are real problems and must be addressed.
Women earn an average 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, less if they are also a minority. In some professions, this gap is smaller. In others it's wider. But no matter what the profession, even if it's 'only' a loss of 10 cents on the dollar, the gap is there, and it is solely related to the gender of the worker.
The solution is to elect representatives who recognize that equal work deserves equal pay, and that family wages are more important than corporate earnings. Just look at who voted for the Lily Ledbetter Act of 2009. If your representative voted 'Nay', they believe that women should be paid less than men. Let's get these 'Mad Men' out of office and allow common sense to prevail.
We are a nation founded on equality, built and sustained by women as well as men. Gender discrimination is completely and categorically unacceptable. Not only have women earned equal pay, they deserve it.