Liberal, Irreverent

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wage Gap Fails to "Magically Disappear",

Taken from

Wage Gap Fails to "Magically Disappear", Carrots Still Don't Taste Like Chocolate (4/12/2011)

When I was a little girl, I once asked my mother why she ate salads everyday instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with ice cream — which, I was sure, is what I would eat everyday if I were an independent adult.

Her response was my introduction into the world of dieting. It was, however, a little misleading. "Don’t worry about it," she said, after using the word "calories." "By the time you’re old enough to diet, scientists will have invented carrots that taste like chocolate. They'll have figured all that out by then."

At that point I think the conversation petered out (any nascent food-related anxieties assuaged), but looking back on it, I have some lingering questions.

Really Mom? Who is this anonymous "they"? And what specific actions are they going to take to ensure that Generation Y has no obligation to watch what they eat?

I didn't ask my mom about the wage gap that day, but I'm curious what she would have said. Back when she taught me about calories, I'm thinking 1991, women earned less than 70 cents to every dollar earned by men. Today, women who work full-time, year-round, earn only 77 cents to every dollar earned by their male peers. So in twenty years, we've managed to gain seven cents an hour. And yet, still, people seem to think the wage gap is simply going to magically disappear with time, along with other effects of sexism and discrimination, all on its own. Just like carrots that actually taste like carrots.

But we know better. Just last week, another study was released demonstrating the pernicious endurance of the wage gap. According to a researcher at the University of Washington, female professors earn an average of 6.9 percent less than their male peersafter accounting for career length, relative productivity and type of institution employed at. According to Inside Higher Ed, these findings are particularly relevant in the academy, where colleges often claim that the continuing gap is explained by the fact that so many current professors rose through the ranks during earlier periods of sexism, or that female professors chose to work in lower-paying fields. Apparently not.

Today is Equal Pay Day, and it represents an opportunity to examine the financial inequities that continue to burden women and their families. ThePaycheck Fairness Act, re-introduced in both Houses today, directly addresses the wage gap by toughening remedies available for sex-based pay discrimination, allowing women to receive compensatory and punitive damages for violations, and prohibiting unfair retaliation against employees who discuss pay and pay disparities on the job, among other things.

I honestly don't know where scientists currently stand on their progress towards vegetables that taste like dessert, but I do know where society stands on equal pay. We may not be there yet, but we've identified tools and actions that will advance the cause and increase equality between sexes. Let's not wait another twenty years to see if this one clears up on its own.

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