“This Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.” – President Barack Obama in his State of the Union Speech
A law was passed over 51 years ago to ensure that women workers are not discriminated against or compensated with lower wages by employers. This was mandated by the ‘The Equal Pay Act’, passed on June 10, 1963.
The Act prohibits gender discrimination, saying no employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying different wages to individuals performing equal work, requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. Extensively detailed regulations grant all the required investigative powers to the enforcers of the Act as well as private plaintiffs.
So, why would the President say that women are not getting equal pay? There are definitely some indications which go to prove that the Act has failed to achieve its goals.
The salaries drawn by the White House staff, numbering a total of 458, showed that in 2013 the median salary of $65,000 for female employees is nearly $8,729 less than the median of $73,729 for men. In 2014, this gap was actually higher at $10,100 (75,750 – 65,650). This disparity is taken to be the result of having more women in low paying jobs when compared to men, with the woman earning 88 cents to a man’s dollar
On average, a woman who has worked full-time for a full year is found to earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar. The Detailed Median Weekly Earnings of Full-Time Wage and Salary Workers by Occupation and Sex published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women do earn significantly less than men in all but two of the professions which are open to both sexes. The largest difference in pay between genders is found in legal occupations at $754, followed at a distance by physicians and surgeons at $590. In comparison, just 2 among the 130 occupations open to both sexes see women being paid just marginally more than men.
It has been theorized that women are paid less as a result of their own career choices. The typical evidence offered includes:
Let’s look at the facts.
While it is often viewed as “politically incorrect” to speak out against equal pay for women, opponents to this concept continue to exist. They claim that if forced to pay equal wages to women, employers may actually be discouraged from hiring women and will end up hiring fewer women. It would also end merit-based pay, cause more lawsuits and increase overall labor and administrative costs. So, it is claimed that this move would hurt both sides of the equation, namely the employers and the women employees/applicants. The proposed ‘Payment Fairness’ initiative could also cut the flexibility enjoyed by mothers in the workplace. None of these arguments are supported by hard evidence.
On this issue, the President got it right. Women are an increasingly larger part of the workforce. Many women serve as heads of households in single parent homes. Work has a value, and compensation should be tied to that value, not to the gender of the person performing the work. It is time employers started being transparent in the matter of wages, so that all doubts will be set to rest once and for all.
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