Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Equal Pay Day

I just got the kids off on the bus. I have two - a daughter, almost 8 and a son who just turned 6. Why do I mention this? Aside from the shameless bragging, I wonder about their futures as all parents do. They are both extremely bright. They are both very curious, as most kids are. They both enjoy school.

But my daughter is likely to earn less than my son earns. Over her lifetime, her earnings will trail his by over half a million dollars. It will, statistically speaking, take her until April 24 - Equal Pay Day - to earn the same amount her brother earns by the previous December 31.

In the new report, Behind the Pay Gap, the AAUW Educational Foundation found that just one year after college graduation, women earn only 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Ten years after graduation, women fall further behind, earning only 69 percent of what men earn. Even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings, the research indicates that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained and is likely due to sex discrimination. Over time, the unexplained portion of the pay gap grows.

Being a bottom-line thinker, I think about what that means for my daughter and my family. Well for starters, she will be less able to pay off the inevitable student loans which may necessitate additional support for her after college.

Wage discrimination goes beyond the first few years after college however, and indeed actually grows. Her total lifetime earnings will be lower - by over a half million dollars, on average - lowering her Social Security and pension benefits as well as her ability to save for retirement.

I'm not just a bottom-line thinker, though. I'm also an activist and a member of American Association of University Women. This gives me additional means to fight to end this discrimination, for myself and my family and for my daughter and her future.

I can read the full Behind the Pay Gap Report.

I can (and you can too) use the two-minute activist to write to legislators on various issues effecting women's economic security.

I can (and will) attend the AAUW NYS Convention in Saratoga Springs to network with other women and hear from Evelyn F. Murphy, author of Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It and leader of The WAGE Project.

I can start a WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Club. There are resources to show me how.

I can see where my state ranks for women's pay equity.

I can make use of AAUW's Pay Equity Toolkit to find more ways to work towards equal pay.

I have a voice to fight pay disparity. I will use it. Not only for me. But for my daughter - and my son, as he will likely grow and one day have a wife of his own, who will make these issues his issues as well.

How will you use your voice?