Does Pay Determine Worth?

It is no secret that equal pay does not consistently exist in our country. To this day, women still earn less than an equal male counterpart regardless of the industry! On average women earn 77 percent of a man’s pay, according to Census statistics released in September 2011. To put this in perspective, fifty years ago, women earned 61 percent of what men earned. While it is not equal, it is progress!

To break it out further, in 2010, African American women were at 67 percent of all men's earnings; Latinas' at 58 percent, and Asian American women were at 86 percent. What is interesting is that the younger generations are seeing significantly better numbers! Women under 25 working full-time earn 93 percent of men's salaries. This could imply that once the oldest generation of women has retired the wage gap will shrink considerably.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck. Prior to this Act, victims were only allowed 180 days from the date of the first unfair paycheck. President Obama has vowed to reduce the wage gap between the genders. His intentions are honorable, but it still requires that women speak-up and say this is unacceptable.

Honestly, when I was putting together the questions to ask the women, I expected this to be a topic that would light a cannon and start a fury of ranting. There were a few rants, but I was surprised that some of them had answers like Rozanne Garman saying, “I was never paid less than my male counterparts” or Daria VanLiew with “Working in the federal government, equal pay is not an issue that I have experienced. I receive the same pay for the same work as my male peers.”

Instead of opening a can of worms around equal rights, a difference between how women were treated between union and non-union companies was revealed. “In a union it’s about skill so no, there is no difference in pay,” Amie Riggs-Swarts explains. This isn’t to say that only unions pay women fairly. Amanda Grindle has had a completely different experience, “I have always been well-compensated for my work, but this may also have a lot to do with working for a woman-owned construction firm. I think part of the problem with the difference in wages is that women typically don’t stand up and defend their work and what they should be paid for it. I think owners strive to pay someone the least amount they can get away with—regardless of the worker’s gender. Employees need to recognize their value and defend their value to the owner. If they are a good worker, owners will then typically understand that they need to pay those employees more to keep them.”

"Equal pay has always been an issue for me. I constantly had to fight to get paid what my equal male counterpart was getting paid," Karen Say says. Say continues, “It was usually explained to me that they have more technical knowledge than I did even though we did the same job and had the same credentials! I had to over document and over-prove that I deserved a raise or promotion, before I had my own company.”

“I was once told that my equal male counterpart had a family to provide for and that is why he got paid more,” Cathy Summers shares as if she didn’t have a family or her family was not as important.

“I have made sure that our employees have equal pay for equal work. In construction, companies make money if their employees do a great job, save the company money, and please the client. Employees are paid and rewarded based on performance and company profits. Male or female –it doesn’t matter. I run my company with integrity, honesty and excellent client satisfaction.” Linda Minde responds.

“My personal experience became the foundation of my business. There were things I knew I was not going to recreate. Everyone needed good medical, has the opportunity to access the 401K, and has equity and merit in the company. If you bring value to the company, you will be paid well. Pay is based on performance,” Say says with passion.

Pay discrepancy that women face appears to be something that will probably stay until companies are required to pay male and female employees equal pay or through grassroots efforts. Many of these women after spending most of their career working for someone else went on to run their own business, and while that sounds attractive, not everyone has that opportunity or is willing to put their energies in that direction. The data indicates the gap is narrowing; women must continue to push forward so that the gap eventually disappears.
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