Here’s my two cents on the issue of equal pay in the US workforce—actually, that would be my 1.54 cents based on my gender and the fact that women still earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. In June 2013, the Association for Women in Science ran a series of blog posts in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, emphasizing that women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) earn on average 14% less than men in the same disciplines. Although pay for women has improved since enactment of the Equal Pay Act, it is far from equal pay for equal work. However, this issue expands beyond gender disparity to any minority populations in a workforce who are unequally compensated. For example, gender disparity also affects men who work in fields dominated by women where the wages have been set at a lower standard (e.g., administrative services).
Recent legislation efforts focused on solving unequal pay issues include the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to prove that their pay scales are set by factors independent of gender and permit private sector employees to share salary information. Opponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act argue that businesses will see an increase in lawsuits resulting from the new legislation because the law would allow for compensatory pay in cases of gender discrimination. This assumption seems to be based on far-fetched scare tactics to convince American voters that equal pay legislation will cost the taxpayer and business owner more money. In my view, employers who take a proactive approach to ensure that their hiring and pay practices are free of biases are actually protected because the possibility of a pay discrimination case would be unfounded in court.
How can you help support these equal pay efforts?
1. Send a note to your representatives asking them to support the Paycheck Fairness Act and similar legislation. A quick email option is available using the American Civil Liberties Union’s website.
2. Read more on how you can help support equal pay efforts from the National Committee on Pay Equity. Plus, take the time to discuss equal pay issues with friends, family and colleagues, as issue awareness leads to change.
3. Stand up for your rights–if you may be a victim of pay discrimination based on sex, race or other characteristics then contact your human resources department and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Council to file a complaint. Remember, pay discrimination extends to compensation other than just the amount of your paycheck, including job assignments and fringe benefits.
4. If you are a hiring manager, consistently evaluate your company’s policies on setting pay scales for new employees and promotions. Suggestions for fair pay practices can be found online at the Department of Labor and the National Committee on Pay Equity.
**Discussion Point: What other ways can employers help ensure equal pay practices?**