— President Obama, speaking in support of equal pay for women, and highlighting his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which improved the ability of women to sure their employers for pay discrimination. (via blogofhorses)
We just about spat out our feminist Wheaties this morning, reading Christina Hoff Sommers takedown of the Paycheck Fairness Act on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times.
A scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Hoff Sommers argues that Paycheck Fairness—which would make it easier for women to file class-action suits against employers they accuse of wage discrimination, and require companies to be more cognizant of their pay practices—overlooks “mountains of research” showing that sexism plays “little role” in wage discrimination at work.
You all know we’ve got studies piled up on our cubicles the size of Mount Everest—if we want to use the mountain cliche—so here’s our humble rebuttal.
Ninety years ago today, the 19th amendment was ratified, granting women the right to vote. It was revolutionary, for the time—Alice Paul, then a young political activist, was beaten, imprisoned and force-fed for simply daring that women be engaged in political process. But if our grandmothers were born into a world where they weren’t allowed to have a political voice, what will the world look like for today’s young women? On the anniversary of women’s suffrage, a reality check:
* Today’s young girls will learn that while she may be able to vote for president, she still probably won’t be one. Even the 3-year-old daughter of Newsweek’s own (outgoing) editor knows this: after the 2008 election, she cooly informed her historian father that “girls can’t be president.” Ouch. Those faces on our dollar bills—42 men, not a single woman—really say it all.
* She’ll have to work harder if she wants to enter into politics, too. Sarah Palin may call herself a feminist, but women still hold just 16.8% of seats in Congress, and there are less than 20 female world leaders presently in power.
(Read the rest here.)
Guest blogger Jillian Weinberger weighs in on the Paycheck Fairness Act, endorsed this week by the Obama administration as “a common sense bill”:
The fourth season of Mad Men premieres on Sunday, but this week, as Obama urged the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, I found myself reflecting on season three—when Peggy demands a raise from Draper.
It may be 40-plus years since the Equal Pay Act prevented employers from discriminating based on sex, but when it comes to pay parity, we’re hardly any further along from the Mad Men days. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that while the pay gap has certainly narrowed since Peggy’s time, the chasm is still wide: in 2009, women earned only 80 percent of men’s weekly wages, and in some jurisdictions, it’s even worse. (In Louisiana, for example, women earn just 65 cents on the male dollar.)
All of this is yet another reason why we need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, now up before the Senate—which would close existing loopholes in the 1963 law. As the National Women’s Law Center has put it, the Act would give women “the same remedies for [pay discrimination] that are currently available” for those who suffer based on race or origin. But critics, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (and Rep. John Boehner, from my home state of Ohio, I’m embarrassed to admit), have a different view: Boehner (ed: what a name, what a name…) contends the law wouldn’t actually empower women, but “empower trial lawyers whose junk lawsuits will clog up the courts.”
When Peggy demanded her raise, Don Draper lost his patience, denounced her as ungrateful and overly demanding, and ushered her out of the room. By invoking the specter of “junk lawsuits,” critics of the Paycheck Fairness Act hope to do the same to millions of women who deserve equal pay for equal work. Americans have certainly made great strides since Peggy and Don walked the hallowed halls of Sterling Cooper, but sex-based pay discrimination continues to haunt us. Women need legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that they can challenge unfair and illegal practices in the workplace.
Jillian Weinberger is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.
Jesse’s got a new Newsweek piece about wage disparity in the legal profession—even among the best lawyers at the most elite firms. A new study found those women, within the highest ranks of the most respected firms, make, on average, $66,000 each year less than men.
First of all: ouch, apparently we’re in the wrong field. But second: double ouch, that is totally appalling. As one employment attorney put it:
“The numbers are so stark that it really does call into question whether there is a systemic problem.”
We’d go with yes.
From the land of mandated paternity leave (and a finance minister who calls himself a “feminist”) comes this odd protest, from Sweden’s Feminist Initiative: burning $13,000 in protest of the Wage Gap.
“It may seem desperate to burn 100,000 kronor [Swedish dollars],” said Party leader Gudrun Schyman. “But the situation is desperate as well.”
Now, as you’ll recall, we too believe the pay gap is a very, very bad thing, whether it’s 23 cents to the dollar in the U.S. or 19 cents in Sweden. But couldn’t that BBQ of charred bills have been, well, better spent?
Here’s an idea: how bout we buy bras for all those crazy topless Mainers? (Ed: Jesse just got back from Maine, but I can assure you she is fully clothed.)
Today’s Economix blog over at the New York Times asks, Do Nice Gals Finish Last? Nancy Folbre, an economist at UMass Amhurst, explains that social scientists have long observed how the aggressive “Machiavellian personality” more typical to men tends to improve economic success, increasing both efforts to demand higher pay and a propensity to lie, cheat and steal. Women, meanwhile, are more agreeable and altruistic than men—traits that are likely to increase productivity, but impair bargaining power.
Evidence is now mounting on the impact of non-cognitive traits such as personality on earnings.
Some personality traits — like conscientiousness — are likely to increase productivity. But other traits, including Machiavellianism and aggressiveness, can increase earnings via a more direct route.
In her new book, The Curse of the Good Girl, girl advocate Rachel Simmons explains how that pressure to be “nice” begins at adolescence. Young women, Simmons contends, force themselves to fit the mold of modest, selfless, rule-following “good girl” for fear of being labeled a “bitch.” But in the real world, as Folbre points out, it’s precisely those bitch-like (Machiavellian?) qualities that help people get ahead. Where this “curse” leaves women is with imbalanced salaries, lower titles, and shorter professional trajectories.
“This generation of young women has had it ingrained in them that they must thrive within a ‘yes, but’ framework: yes, be a go getter, but don’t come on too strong. Yes, accomplish, but don’t brag about it,” says Simmons. “The result is that young women are holding themselves back, saying, ‘I shouldn’t say this, ask for this, do this, it will make me unlikable, or a bitch, or an outcast.’”
What do you think: Is it possible to avoid the Good Girl curse?
And while you’re there, take a minute to look through the comments. It seems to us that the pay gap is one of the most straightforward and least controversial parts of this issue. But damn do people get riled up. Let us know what you think here!
Today, April 20, is Equal Pay Day—a yearly marker of how long women must work into the current year (at 77 cents per every male dollar) to earn what men earned in the year past. We’ll be updating throughout the day, but here are a few figures to get your morning started:
8 months of groceries
The amount a woman could buy for a family of four if she were paid equal to her male peers, according to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the USDA.
The amount that Latina women make per every male dollar in the United States. The gap among African American women is 70 cents; women overall—the figure we most often hear—is 77 cents.
The amount by which the United States’ GDP could increase if the gender gap were closed.