“Women today earn just 49 cents to the typical men’s dollar, much less than the 80 cents usually reported.”
--Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. and Stephen Rose, Ph.D.
When CBS and other news agencies reported this study on the pay gap between men and women this week, I was shocked! I couldn’t believe it. In the late 80s when I finished my MA, the accepted view was that women only earned 60 cents for every one dollar that a man earned. So, when this report shows specifically that women actually earn 49 cents to every one dollar that a man earns, all the stress my women friends and I have felt seemed to make sense.
The study released by Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington D.C. reports on work years from 2001 to 2016. Women’s wages took hits when they took off to have a baby, attended higher education classes, or nursed an ailing family member. Men’s wages did not take a hit when they did the same, all be it, less time than the women.
I feel like this notion that we still have in the 21st Century is unethical and cruel. With so many obstacles to women’s financial success, no wonder we struggle. It’s well known that women have to have more education and more experience than any man to come close to the man’s earning power. My son without a college degree, for example, earns at least $12,000 more than I with a master’s degree did per year. I know friends who left jobs where they were subjected to bullying and sexual harassment to find similar positions in other institutions but with 25 per cent lower pay than before. Instead of getting ahead, like the American Dream suggests, women are often getting mired in lower quality of life.
With this report, we citizens of the United States have learned that women make less, so their retirement is less and so their ability to care for their families is a lot less. Maybe this is why so many female laborers, white collar jobs, blue collar workers, retail clerks and academics opt for a second job to afford the health care and groceries that a family requires.
What about the continued harassment and bullying of women that prompted the #METOO movement streaming out of Hollywood and onto the streets of Main Street America? It’s no wonder that women, slammed on all these sides and earning half as much as a man for the very same job have finally said enough is enough.
I was a victim of workplace bullying in academia, even here in the Valley, and to this day I wonder why I didn’t get the salary that I was promised in a congratulatory letter from Ruth Ann Woods, the president of Trinidad State Junior College sent me. My retirement would be substantially more. I wonder WHY a lot.
We have the blue wave in congress now; and with it many new women representatives to bless congress with. Social change, as many sociology professors have long said, takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, but perhaps it should.
Perhaps we should put our voices out there for equal pay. Perhaps we should write our newly elected representatives about the hardship of not being paid the same and draw attention to the fact of this discriminatory practice. We can, if we all speak up, make America fair again.
—Nelda Curtiss is a retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her at [email protected]