Let’s imagine for a minute that your neighbor works at the same office as you. Same job, same duties, same hours. You have the same amount of experience and productivity. And in order to make as much as your neighbor did in the last year, you have to work 3 ½ months longer. You’d be pretty annoyed right? You would be wondering what Mr. Jones had that you didn’t. You would be questioning why your employer felt this was okay.
This frustrating scenario doesn’t just exist in unfair land. In fact, over 50% of the U.S. population struggles with this. Who are they? Women. Equal Pay Day was stared by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996 to recognize this disparity. It always falls on a Tuesday to represent how far into the week a woman must work to earn what a man did the previous week. This year, April 10th represents the day a woman in the United States makes the same amount as a man in the previous year.
So what have we done about it? The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy. It was a huge step towards closing the pay gap for women. This federal protection against wage discrimination based on sex was the first of its kind. At the time of signing, women’s earnings were 62.3% of men’s. By 2004, this increased to 80.4%. In 2009, President Barack Obama overturned a Supreme Court decision limiting salary discrimination suits to 180 days after it occurred. In 2014, legislation was blocked that would have made it illegal for employers to punish workers who discuss their salaries. We still have a long way to go.
The history of discrimination against women in the financial realm is a long and fairly recent story. There are many stereotypes of women being ‘bad with money.’ They are ‘shopaholics,’ can’t manage the household funds, and too prone to impulse. I’ll admit to being a bit of a battering ram at a sale rack, but a recent study covered by the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that men are equally compulsive.The Stanford University School of Medicine found that the demographic of impulse buyers tend to be based on age and income more than gender. In reality, women’s financial issues tend to come from a lack of confidence rather than inability to manage.
These stereotypes limited women’s opportunities in the job market as well as banks. Until the Equal Credit Opportunity of 1974, banks required women to have a man co-sign for them on a loan, regardless of her income and whether she was single, divorced or widowed. Want to open a charge account at Macy’s? Couldn’t do that either unless a man signed for it. Until 1970, Newsweek would only allow men to be reporters. Until 1978, the Navy had a policy that women would not be allowed on ships. Want to have the car insurance in your name only? Good luck getting it until the late 1970s.
Today, a white woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. The gap is far worse for minority woman. Hispanic women are paid on average 55 cents per dollar, and African American women make 60 cents. A woman working full time, year-round will lose more than $10,000 per year to the wage gap. Over a 40-year career, this number will be over $400,000, making full retirement that much harder to attain.
Now that I have thoroughly depressed you with all these facts, I promise there’s a way to change it other than moving to Sweden.
- To begin with, talk about it! We live in an incredible age of information sharing. The more we share on social media platforms, the more we educate others, the better paved the path to equality is. Let your legislators know where you stand.
- Get over your fear of talking money and start discussing your pay. It’s pretty hard to ask for a promotion or raise if you don’t have any context. Negotiation can be even scarier if you don’t know where you stand. Pay transparency is empowering.
- Shove your imposter syndrome out the door. This is a phenomenon in which we don’t believe we have truly earned our position in the working world, and are ‘faking it until we make it.’ This often comes from many of the stereotypes ingrained in our society. Women tend to struggle with imposter syndrome far more than men. So remember, you worked hard to get there, there is no reason to convince yourself out of pay you have earned.
- This isn’t a men vs. women battle. Don’t go around stink-eyeing every male in your office Tuesday. Not only is it rude, they didn’t create this issue, but they certainly can help solve it. Men have mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters that they wish the best for too. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Together campaign is a good example of everyone working with each other for success.
- Support your local businesses on April 10th. Many will be offering discounts on Tuesday, from 20% off all items, happy hours, and other great deals for all women customers.
Most importantly, please don’t hide under a rock and believe this isn’t a problem for our community. While the city of Bozeman has made great strides in Equal Pay and Gender Diversity, there is still work to do. There are many ways we can all contribute towards creating a community of equality. Bozeman’s Business and Professional Women’s organization is a great local resource that is actively involved in Equal Pay Day and legislation.
All femail customers will recieve a 26% discount at these local business on 4/10/18:
Rocky Mountain Toy Company
Wild Joe's Coffee
Taco Del Sol
Red Tractor Pizza
Townshend's Bozeman Teahouse
For more information go to bozemanbpw.org
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “A woman is like a tea bag- you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”