We’re listening. It’s important to us that our work includes all women. Here’s a statement from NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger on the Equal Payback Project.
It’s 2014. People are googling with their glasses. A Mars rover has its own Twitter account. Driverless cars are just around the corner. We can make all these advances, and yet, when it comes to paying women fairly, we’re practically back in prehistoric times. Women are still paid less than men, at every education level and in nearly every occupation, more than 50 years after Congress first put in place laws that banned sex discrimination in the workplace. When we compare the wages of all women and all men, women working full time, year round typically are paid only 78 cents to every dollar paid to men. African American women are typically paid only 64 cents and Hispanic women only 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. To put that another way, Hispanic women have to work almost twice as long as their white male counterparts to make the same amount of money.
We cannot continue down this path. A new campaign, which you can see at EqualPaybackProject.com, is designed to do something about it. Its goal is to raise the nearly $30 trillion that women lose collectively to the wage gap over the course of their careers. Is the goal absurd? Yes! But that’s the point—to raise awareness about the absurdity of unequal pay and to reach and engage new audiences in the fight for equal pay. The Equal Payback Project’s website and a video starring comedian Sarah Silverman are chock full of facts about the wage gap, and we hope they will open the eyes of many women and men.
The video also features the ridiculous notion that Sarah Silverman would “become a dude” to avoid the wage gap. Sex reassignment surgery is an expensive and complex procedure, which health insurance companies typically refuse to cover, and is therefore out of reach for many of the transgender people who seek it—and transitioning from female to male would clearly not guarantee higher pay in reality. We know transgender people receive no pay premium; in fact, they almost universally report harassment and mistreatment on the job [PDF]. Nearly half report having been fired, denied a promotion, or not having been hired because of their gender identity [PDF] and studies suggest the earnings of transgender women workers fall by nearly a third following transition. This results in transgender Americans being four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 per year than the population as a whole (15% vs. 4%). This is true despite the finding that 87% of transgender people have completed at least some college and 47% have obtained a college or graduate degree – rates that are much higher than those for the general population. This sort of discrimination based on gender identity creates its own wage gap and undermines economic security for transgender people and their families.
That pay should be based on gender identity is ludicrous. That anyone would choose sex reassignment surgery to receive equal pay is ludicrous. It’s also ludicrous that any woman is penalized in the workplace because of outdated stereotypes that women aren’t “breadwinners,” are not tough enough for some jobs, are too tough for other jobs, or that women’s family responsibilities distract them from their work. The Equal Payback Project uses Silverman’s brand of absurd humor to draw attention to this ludicrous situation — it was not our intent to make light of the serious issues transgender people face. We will share statistics about job discrimination faced by transgender people as part of the Equal Payback Project. And we commit to using some of the resources raised by this project to bring awareness to the discrimination faced by transgender women and men.
We don’t want to wait another half century to close the gap. In far less time than that, we intend to achieve equal pay. For everyone.