To flip an old phrase, the political is personal. And as a young woman in the beginning of my professional life, the Paycheck Fairness Act is very personal.
For those of you who don’t know, the Paycheck Fairness Act is a bill that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees for sharing information about their wages, improving data collection and enforcement by government agencies, closing loopholes that courts have opened in the law, and making it easier for employees to come together as a group to challenge discriminatory pay policies.
Apologies if that sounds wonky, but I promise you, these policy changes can have personal impact. Check out the wage gap in your home state (I hope you’ve had the chance to look at our beautiful state by state fact sheets on the wage gap). These female cents on the male dollar figures – 77 cents nationally, 76 cents in my home state of Illinois, 91 cents in Washington, DC – aren’t just arbitrary numbers. They translate into real money that never finds its way into your bank account simply because of your gender.
Did you know that a typical woman loses out on $431,000 in earnings over a forty-year period? That’s less money to pay back student loans, buy a house or car, send children to college, save for retirement, go on vacation, contribute to charity, or simply buy Ben and Jerry’s when it’s not on sale!
I hope you’re thinking “this isn’t fair. I worked just as hard as my male classmates in college and I work just as hard and am just as intelligent as my male coworkers.” Maybe this post is getting you so fired up that you want to start a conversation with friends, family, and people you meet at happy hours. You should know that some of them might be skeptical. They might argue that fair pay legislation is unnecessary because women’s choices explain the gap, not discrimination.
Yes, women more often than men have to balance career with caregiving responsibilities, but even when difference in occupation, experience, education, and race are controlled for, 40 percent of the wage gap is still unexplained. In other words, 40 percent of the wage gap is caused by discrimination. And no, I don’t mean women discriminating against higher salaries.
At this point, you’re probably feeling angry after being forced to refute stereotypes about women not liking money, or not caring about professional advancement, or just being too darn sensitive to earn a high salary. But I also hope you feel empowered by your new understanding that what happens on C-SPAN isn’t just political theater, but personal too.