Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What does pay equity mean for us, our daughters, and our granddaughters?

April 28th is Pay Equity Day -- not a day to celebrate because we haven't achieved equity yet. Rather, it's a day to remind ourselves of the facts and reflect on the impact of those facts on the lives of those we care about. In 1963, when John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, baby boomers were just beginning to think seriously about careers. At that time woman earned 59 cents for each dollar earned by a man. Nationally, today, it's 78 cents for every dollar, and in New York, it's 81 cents/dollar.

Over the course of a lifetime, that can mean more than a million dollars. It impacts our Social Security payments, our pensions, and our savings. It's the reason so many older women live in poverty after their partners die. It impacts all those children supported by single mothers and all those families where the wife is now the sole breadwinner because her husband has lost his job.

The strange thing is many of us are unaware that the pay gap has an impact on us. Young women graduating from college today don't realize that their male peers with the same qualifications are starting out at higher rates and that the difference compounds every year. Women working in organizations that publish their pay scales don't realize that men are hired at the top of the scale more frequently, while women think it's only natural to start at the bottom.

And, women tend to abide by the rules, "Don't discuss your salary with anyone." That's how Lilly Ledbetter worked her whole career supervising a plant of 4000 on the night shift, garnering more awards, and better evaluations than her male peer, while earning thousands of dollars less than even the most recent hire. It was an anonymous note stuck in her locker that brought the discrepancy to her attention.

How does the pay gap affect you, your daughter, your granddaughter, your wife, your mother, your girlfriend?

Join us tonight at 7 pm, Kingston Library, to discuss the pay gap and its impact on us all.

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