To be fair, President Obama has done a lot to try and close the earnings gap between men and women. One of his first acts as president was to sign into the law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which empowers women who have been discriminated against in their salaries to have their day in court to make it right. The president also established the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force to identify persistent challenges to equal pay enforcement and ensure equal pay laws are vigorously enforced throughout our country; and just last week he proclaimed April 12, 2011 as National Equal Pay Day.
Of the proclamation President Obama said the following:
At a time when families across this country are struggling to make ends meet, National Equal Pay Day reminds us that achieving equal pay for equal work is not just a women’s issue — it is a family issue. In today’s world, women represent both powerful consumers and vital wage earners. Women make up nearly half of the labor force and mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of families. When women are not paid fairly, the families that depend on their earnings suffer.
When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. 48 years later women still earn an average of only about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, even though they are more likely than men to attend and graduate from college.
While I appreciate all of the efforts and the stance President Obama has taken on this issue, I know proclaiming April 12th as National Equal Pay Day will not close the 23 cent gap that still exists. In a job market where there are hundreds just waiting to take your job if you ‘step out of line’ or ‘rock the boat,’ I wonder whether or not women feel comfortable pursuing legal action against discriminating employers. And I also have to wonder, how does one know whether they are being discriminated against or not?
I’m sure the guy making 23 cents more per dollar isn’t going to volunteer that information to his office cube gal pal. Again, does he want to be responsible for rocking the boat either? Most likely not. I’m sure he and his pals don’t mind the extra; and in this economy, I’d expect an employer to lower male earnings per dollar by 23 cents rather than raise female employee salaries to match.
I do agree with the president in that “achieving equal pay for women is vital to strengthening the future prosperity of our country.” However, until something can be done …like making employee salaries public knowledge, women in America can celebrate National Equal Pay Day, but still deposit their checks knowing it’s a bit less than the less qualified guy working in the next cube.
Sadly, over the course of her lifetime, this gap will cost a woman and her family lost wages, reduced pensions, and diminished Social Security benefits. Unfair.