Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mind the gap

Western countries have been grappling with the issue of gender pay inequality since the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s. Despite our progression in other areas such as maternity leave, the gender pay gap has remained a sad reality across the developed world. 

Statistics show that women in America earn eighty cent for every dollar earned by a man. This presents a pay gap of 20%. The 2016 report “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap” projects that at the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. (That equates to, dare I mention it, over ten presidential terms!) 

The twist of the knife comes with the realisation that women of colour experience an even greater wage gap: In 2013, African-American women working full time, year-round were paid only sixty-four cent to the white-man's dollar.

This issue has recently caused a public outcry in France. Eurostat's figures for 2014 show that French women's salaries are 15.1% less than that of males. The French feminist group Les Glourieuses stated that 
This difference in salaries hides other inequalities. Women also do other unpaid work like household tasks.

The feminist group calculated that if women earned the same as men in France, they could stop work each year on Monday November 7 at 4:34pm and be no worse off than they are now. This week, institutions such as Paris City Hall joined the protest and stopped work to highlight the wage disparity between men and women.

This new stance against such inequality excites me. Women are sending their message loud and clear, while maintaining their poise and dignity. How can government officials argue when women are simply performing the work which their wages merit?

A near-identical protest took place in Iceland this week. Even in the country which experts consider to be the world's leader in gender equality, the pay gap persists. Last Monday November 7, thousands of Icelandic women left work at 2:38pm (14% early) to reflect the country's 14% pay gap.

This issue stems beyond the typical careers of the labor market. Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence has bravely addressed Hollywood's ruthless gender pay gap. She opened up to Diane Sawyer on gender inequality within the showbiz industry when hacked e-mails revealed that she was paid less than her male counterpart in the critically-acclaimed 2014 film "American Hustle".

Jennifer confessed that she had fallen in to the trap which so many American women are lured in to by their male superiors. She explained that when Sony told her of the salary difference, she smiled and nodded so as not to "appear spoiled or difficult." As women are in equal, if not higher demand in the film industry, this sparked bewilderment.

It is clear from recent years that we are no longer naive to this blatant discrimination against women in the workforce. The issue has been placed under a white-hot spotlight and can no longer be avoided.

It is motivating for myself as a young woman to witness other women around the world facing this archaic concept head-on. Whether it takes years or decades, I believe that there will come a time where women can earn equal and in some cases, more, than men. Change is imminent. You might call my ambition absurd, but so is the pay gap.

5 comments:

Julie Maguire said...

Louise,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I appreciate the way in which you acknowledge the many different occupations that are affected by this discrimination, particularly those in the entertainment industry.

Robin Wright who plays Clare Underwood in 'House of Cards' openly demanded to be paid the same as her male counterpart, Kevin Spacey. She spoke about the popularity of her character versus his and how she was deserving of a salary that matched his. Wright's endeavour was successful and she received her pay rise.

See < http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/05/robin-wright-fought-for-equal-pay-on-house-of-cards > for further insight.

Anaaf said...

I tried to wrap my mind around why women in the western world are still struggling to get an equal pay on the same jobs the do as men. After reading, thinking and of course talking to everybody I know about it I reached this conclusion:

· Childcare

· Women are less likely to negotiate their salary, where men are not shy to do so. What is interesting that even when women try to negotiate their salaries the employers label them as “aggressive”. So basically the are doomed if they stayed quite, and the are doomed if they speak up. Which takes me to the next point

· Gender discrimination

· Women tend to choose lower paying jobs. On the other hand, even if the choose higher paying jobs they still get paid less.

· Women are more likely to work par time especially after having a child, and that takes us back to the point where women are expected to be the primary care giver party and work less hours or leave her job altogether to take care of the child

Joan Maya said...

Louise,

This blog post felt so relevant to the stage of life I find myself in. Soon I will be leaving law school behind and entering the work force where the wage gap will directly impact my life.

In Anaaf's comment above she mentioned how women are less likely to negotiate their salaries when men are more likely to do so. While I was reading your blog I was thinking the same thing, and it occurred to me that I wouldn't even know where to begin if I wanted to negotiate my salary. So I decided to look online and see what advice there is out there for women who are trying to negotiate their salaries. In one article (http://www.salary.com/7-salary-negotiation-tips-for-women---how-to-get-ahead-without-negative-feedback/slide/2/) I thought it was interesting that the author pointed out that one of the main problems is that women fail to negotiate at all, not that they are have problems in the actual negotiation.

I feel like educational institutions, especially those sending their students into a specific work force (like King Hall!) should prepare their students, especially their female students, on how to negotiate their salaries to make sure they are paid fairly.

Josie Zimmermann said...

I remember that Jennifer Lawrence scandal/interview. It continutes to astonish me that the pay gap is so prevalent in Hollywood, where they also rely so heavily on women and women's bodies to sell things. It's such a hotbed of feminist issues!

The negotiating salaries issue that Joan and Anaaf discussed has been on my mind for a few years now. I'm in a facebook group where we regularly talk about career goals and updates, and salary negotiations come up all the time. It's shocking how many of the women in this group that I find intimidatingly successful in their fields don't know what they're doing when it comes to salary negotiating. One anecdotal finding from the women who are in more senior roles, is that offices where people are open about their salaries tend to not have the same gender gaps. They have a theory that it's mostly in the company's best interest for people to be private about how much money they make, but in the employees' best interest to share that info. Something to think about!

Kyle Kate Dudley said...

Louise,

I am as excited as you by what seems to be an open revolution against the gender pay gap. I got very inspired to hear of actresses who I relate to and appreciate negotiating for what they wanted, as well as the efforts of Icelandic women on November 7th! I feel their chagrin at the fear that it will take 50 years to get equal pay with men at the rate we're going (and appreciated its echo in the mention of 2059 here in the US). That is NOT acceptable. Thinking about what the posters above have mentioned, I wonder if we can come to salary talks as women and simply outrightly say: "will I be paid equally to the men of my same position at this firm?" It's one approach :)