Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Day Long and Less Than a Dollar Short

Yes - it's true. A dollar is a dollar!

The issues around pay equity are complex for sure, but it's clear that our economy suffers greatly as a result of the pay gap between women and men. Most of us don't grow up thinking that we want women to earn less than men for equal work - or that we want the actual work performed by women to be devalued in aggregate tracking. Many of us probably don't even think about it perhaps assuming that it's just so wrong that it doesn't make sense to consider it. Yet it's happening. Women end up at less than a dollar short for long days at work - and at home.

On average women spend ~1800 hours per year working a paid job where the average pay is less than men's. Once the work day is over, women also carry the load for their families at home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women devote more than 110 million hours a year to unpaid interactive child care - more than double the amount of time spent by men in these same areas. The effort at home doesn't yet factor into economic evaluations, but shouldn't it?

If women received pay equal to their male counterparts, the U.S. economy would produce $447.6 billion in additional income

Beyond the Working Years

The economic impact of unequal pay cascades throughout a woman's lifecycle and causes challenges well beyond the working years. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), women live long and prosper with an average age of 81.1 years compared to men's 76.3 years yet the adverse impact of pay inequality carried forward is doubled for women.

The Social Security Administration shows more optimistic longevity data noting that:
  • Women who reach 65 today can expect to live until 86 on average
  • Men who reach 65 today can expect to live until 84 on average
  • For 65-year-olds today - ~25% of will live past age 90; ~10% will live past age 95

The median income for women over 65 was approximately 25 percent lower than men’s over the last decade, with a poverty rate for women at 2X higher than men's in 2010


Avoid Poverty Now - and Later

What if pay equity wasn't an issue? Data from the Institute for Women's Policy Research shows a dramatic decrease in poverty if pay was equalized based on:
  • same number of hours worked
  • same age
  • same educational attainment
  • same urban/rural status
  • same region of the country

The poverty rate would decrease by 50% if women earned the same as men!

Moving Forward

With laws in place to ensure equal pay for equal work and increasing awareness of the challenges caused by the status quo, barriers to pay equity will begin to fall away as more people take an active role in changing the future. To move forward we must continue to:

  • Increase Awareness - seek first to understand and then to change what doesn't work. Don't assume that everyone is aware of the details around pay equity. Leverage your knowledge and applicable laws as necessary.
    • Equal Pay Act of 1963
    • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
    • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
    • The Paycheck Fairness Act (Pending)

  • Speak Up - secrecy leads to the persistence of stubborn pay gaps due to lack of visibility. Dig in and understand fair market rates by role, gender, education, location, experience, skills, effort, and responsibility (i.e. know what's fair based on your value proposition?)

  • Challenge Perceptions - a dollar is a dollar and it should be viewed as such. Once you know your market value, prepare to negotiate for top dollar and be creative when promoting your capabilities.

  • Hold Employers Accountable - don't be afraid to challenge employers when discrepancies are found. That's what the laws are for! Concerns have been expressed that additional legislation in this area will tie up the courts with frivolous law suits. Rubbish! If pay is going wrong, then use all available avenues to help make it right!

  • Redefine the Value of Work - All of It! - people are the core infrastructure of the economy thus work 'with' people (i.e. families) should be included in economic evaluations.

Our future is in our hands - so let's take care of us!

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