Monday, June 3, 2013

Pay Equality--Not just a lady issue

I read HuffPo's article yesterday about Marsha Blackburn's comments on pay equality. In one sense, I totally agree with her. I do want companies to pay based on merit and have that pay be equal to what a man with the same or very similar credentials. And ideally, I don't want a law to force that issue. But here's the thing, companies en masse aren't doing that. If that were the case, we wouldn't have a huge gap. Yay for us that the gap is closing. The Institute for Women's Policy Research tracks this annually and what I found astonishing is that if we continue at the same pace, women will finally have equal pay in about 50 years! Say what? That's just crazy. Did I validate that study? Nope. In one sense, I don't need to. I think women earned about 59% of what men did when Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in '63. In that time (50 years), that gap has been reduced by a little more than half (gap goes from 41 to 19). 

So, it would be totally awesome if employers had this great aha moment and decided to pay women the same as men (when the actual difference is due to only to gender and not rationalized to something else). Why do we need to help companies with pay equality? Two reasons come to my mind...

1) Robb Base had it right. It takes two...salaries that is, to have a decent quality of life (I do realize that's subjective). Here's my context, daycare costs us $2,186 per month and we live in the 'burbs. And we aren't extravagant. More women are the breadwinners now than before, so when women aren't paid the same as men, it becomes a significant issue for the family's income. We aren't in the 50's where the guys get home and the little ladies have dinner waiting on the table. Now for a significant number of families, men and women are actually equals...gasp!!  So tell me again why I'm trying to justify that women need to be paid the same? Oh and by the way, if the woman happens to belong to another minority group (ie African American), the pay gap increases. 

2) Why do we raise girls to believe that they can do anything but yet, companies won't treat them the same when it comes to paying them. That just doesn't work for me. I recently was involved with recommending a salary for a new hire. I felt devalued because I make less than the next comparable person who is a guy (I'm working on that by the way). The point is, salary is one way of indicating value. So my organization theoretically is willing to spend more on that dude than they are for me. Not cool. And do I want my daughter to deal with this? Nope. I want her to be paid her worth... and she's worth the same as a guy with a comparable guy. So here's a radical thought, all the way from the 60's...organizations should pay comparable men and women the same.  Because that's only fair. And when something is unfair and we can do something about it, we should.