Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Guest post: Smashing the gender wage gap!

Susan Logsdon, president of the Widener University FMLA in Pennsylvania, posts about the FMLA's work to raise awareness about pay equity. Happy Thanksgiving!

It is often hard for young women, especially college students, to think of ways in which feminist activism could help them. However, our FMLA has found that drawing attention to unequal pay between men and women is an effective way to inform people how relevant the feminist struggle for equal rights is to modern society.

In October, we held a pay-equity bake sale, inspired by the Feminist Majority Foundation, and we emphasized the fact that women still earn only 76 cents to every dollar that a man makes. No matter how educated a woman is or how many qualifications or skills she may have, she will still earn much less than her male counterpart simply because of the fact of her gender.

It is even harder for women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as science and engineering, as they face other discriminations and hardships due to their gender. Even fields such as nursing have unequal pay distributions; one study has shown that male nurses may earn in excess of 3,000 dollars more a year than female nurses. Both of these fields of study are highly represented and respected at our college, and the fact that these young women pursuing rigorous fields of study will still eventually earn much less than their male counterparts after graduation is deeply disturbing.

The ideas behind the bake sale also extended to another population of our college and many other colleges as well: older students who are either returning to college after an absence or who are getting their first chance at college in order to advance their careers. Many women in these situations are working while pursuing their degrees and may also have families to support as well.

They are attending college to make their job opportunities brighter or improve their current statuses in order to make things more promising for themselves. Yet, the unequal wage system does not honor such commitments; women who have had extra burdens such as a late start to education or families to support will still earn much less than their male counterparts.

Our bake sale emphasized all of these points, and we found that many people who stopped by our table were extremely receptive to the idea. They recognized the disparity between the wages of men and women and how this is unjustified. What was most encouraging was the fact that equal amounts of both genders supported the idea and recognized the faulty system that supports unequal pay as something inherently unfair; there were not any protests at the idea that one gender had to pay more than the other gender, and all seemed to realize the gravity of our message.

We felt confident that, through promoting a cause that is very real and pertinent to women of all different generations and backgrounds, we had given our college community a greater sense of what feminism is: simply the idea that women are as equal as men, not something that is meant to divide the genders.

Want to know more? Contact Susan at smlogsdon (at) mail dot widener dot edu. You too can cross post with FMF! Email campusteam@feminist.org to get on board!

3 comments:

晴天 said...
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Cassandra said...

I know what you mean, It seems like everyone wants to proclaim women equal to men, like getting to vote and work outside the home without persecution is enough. I am so tired of people rolling their eyes at feminist theory like it is some tired nagging hag who just won't go away.

Also as a women I see it as my responsibility to ask for equal pay to raise up that statistic, but often it seems like employers are offended or put off by that. There's a double standard, a man in my position would be looked upon as motivated and ambitious.

paulettefilms said...

A Swiss group called equal salary is successfully putting an equal salary certification in place. While many organizations claim they practice salary equity, the Swiss govt. reports 19% salary disparity among men and women in Switz-land.

The equal-salary certification, based on an objective scientific tool, allows companies to test their equal compensation policies in total confidentiality and to communicate about it. The certification is well received in its beginning stages - I would look for it if we had it in the U.S!

Here's my recent post on the topic: http://itbeginswithme.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/women-and-economy-online-discussions-week-1/ Thanks for your good info!