Mind the [Wage] Gap Annie O'Brien and Sha'Diya Tomlin

Eight KHS students attended a Press Club lunch forum called “Pay Equity: Root Causes” sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) March 30. Four members of the association, Karen Francis, Dr. Malaika Horne, Joan Suarez and Suzanne Gellman, spoke about the causes of the wage gap and the effect it has on our society.

“Women are the backbone and always have been.” -Karen Francis
Wage Gap by State (2006) [courtesy of Wikipedia under the Creative Commons License]
"First the root, then the branch. The tree came from the seeds and the seeds from the tree and so on.” -Dr. Malaika Horne

Views on the Wage Gap

Annie O'Brien

Ninety-four days. That is how many extra days a woman has to work to earn the same annual salary as a man, according to the AAUW. Meaning, while a man can make $100,000 in 365 days, a woman has to work for 459 days to earn that amount.

As a white female, I earn approximately 79 cents to a white man’s dollar, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). This number drops significantly for minorities: Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women make only 60 cents for every dollar, Native American women make 58 cents and Latinas earn a meager 54 cents. Like most other people in the world, I would eventually like to have enough money to live comfortably. But, due to the wage gap, I could be part of the one in seven women who live in poverty, according to the NWLC.

We never talk about the wage gap at school, or at least not in-depth. It doesn’t seem to be a prominent issue in society because it is, as the Economic Policy Institute puts it, “shaped by discrimination, societal norms, and other forces beyond women’s control.” And the brutal truth is that the U.S. has barely made any progress. The wage gap has not changed by more than 10 percent since 1990, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. That is nearly two decades of essentially making no difference.

I had never given the wage gap much thought before attending the Press Club lunch forum. I never had any reason to, or at least I didn’t think I did. I now realize that if we want to have any chance of eradicating the wage gap, we need to get the conversation started. Women are working just as hard in the workplace as men. When are their salaries going to reflect that?

[courtesy of Wikipedia under the Creative Commons License]
“Employers don’t care what you need. It’s about the job and what you bring to the job.” -Suzanne Gellman
[courtesy of Wikipedia under the Creative Commons License]
“My mother didn’t go out of the house to work but she worked in the house. We have to look historically at how things were to really understand how things are now.” -Joan Suarez

Views on the Wage Gap

Sha'Diya Tomlin

As a black female, I am well aware of the pay discrimination I will have to deal with when I enter the workforce. Even though discrimination is illegal, we still find that most employers do things to work around that. Not only do I have to think about the effects of being female, but I also have to consider the effects of my skin color.

According to the Center for American Progress, women of color are more likely to be employed as involuntary part-time workers than their white counterparts, both male and female. Women of color are also paid less than white males. According to the AAUW, African-American women make 65 cents to what our white counterparts make. The work of women of color is often undervalued and unrecognized.

It’s sad to think that women still are fighting for equal pay in 2017. It’s also hard to think of how much longer we will have to fight for equality. But we do have to continue to work, and the best thing for us to do is come together, stand up and speak up.

After the Press Club lunch forum, I walked out feeling more confident in how I can help this push for equal pay for women. I know that as women, we are stronger when we come together. We are mothers, hard workers, students and so much more. And society will always rely on us.

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. But just because you’re at the table doesn’t mean you have a voice. If we’re not talking about the issues, who is?” -Karen Francis

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