– By Amy Spekhardt 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, women still only earn 77 cents for each dollar earned by men The current conversations in the United States regarding the issues women face have been all the wrong ones. The American media …

Amy Spekhardt North America, USA, Women


– By Amy Spekhardt

50 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, women still only earn 77 cents for each dollar earned by men

The current conversations in the United States regarding the issues women face have been all the wrong ones. The American media and news sources are continuously reporting on the constant courtroom battles over a woman’s body and her right to choice. However, the more important situation that is facing American women is being completely ignored by the American press and was only recently thrust into the spotlight thanks to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Economically and financially women are still not equal to men in the workplace. Women are presently only making 77 cents to every $1 that men are making. This statistic should be the motivating force for every woman, politician and government enforcement agency to demand the correction of the sexists working society in America.

There is a law in the United States that requires employers to pay women the same amount as men for the same quality of work. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and ended an employer’s ability to discriminate against workers based on their gender. It was landmark legislation that was only strengthened in both 1970 and 1974 by the Supreme Court of the United States in Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co and Corning Glass Works v. Brennan respectively. However after 50 years this legislation has still not successfully fulfilled its original goals. The ideologies of the 1960s and the ‘Happy Homemaker’ are still rampant today as they were under President Kennedy. President Obama even referenced this sexist era in the State of the Union Address and commented how the practices are continuing. He stated that “It’s time to do away with workplace politics that belong in a Mad Men episode.”

While the president’s reference to pop culture was an analogue that many were able to understand it was also a great moment to illustrate the attitude of employers towards women and the EPA. Mad Men actually addresses the issue of the EPA when Peggy Olson, a newly promoted copywriter, tells her boss Don Draper about the EPA. Needless to say Don Draper did not seriously consider the legislation to be important or see to its implantation, he simply brushed Peggy off stating he cannot “talk to her about a raise.” Many employers are just like the fictional Don Draper, they are not complying with the law and rewarding male employees while diminishing the significant work women are accomplishing. Most importantly employers are confusing a raise with a right. What employers do not understand is that the 23 cent difference in pay between men and women may be helping their short term financial goods, but is in effect having a greater harmful effect on the overall American economy.

One of the countless reasons why women are so outraged by these statistics on workplace inequality is that a woman’s work is being undervalued when their work is equivalent to those of their male counterparts. Women are valued members of society and have contributed to numerous historical achievements. Most notably Frances Perkins, as Secretary of Labor, created the Social Security system that some many American rely on today and helped establish the minimum wage through the Fair Labor Relations Act. Yet her pioneering accomplishments are still overshadowed that by the fact that women make up 47% of the workforce and are still compensated less for their skills, ability and work product.

A prime instance of the current wage disparity between men and women is the recent hiring of General Motors’ first female CEO Mary Barra. While Barra’s hiring is monumental, her salary is also imperative to illustrate the present concern regarding gender equality. Currently Barra is making a base salary of $1.6 million, while her previous male counterpart was making $1.7 million. Yet the largest travesty is that Barra will be earning $4.6 million overall while the previous male CEO earned an estimated $9 million. General Motors has stated that Barra’s salary could increase in June after shareholders vote on long-term incentive compensation.

However Barra has years of experience, has been with General Motors since 1980 and last served as General Motor’s Senior Vice President of Global Product Development, so her decreased salary is a growing concern for gender equality and illustrates how employers place less value on a woman’s skill, ability and experience. General Motor’s should be stating that Barra’s salary will be equal to her male predecessor, not could be, and should be held accountable if it is not. Barra’s appointment to CEO is a great accomplishment for women, yet her comparative decreased salary to the previous male CEO articulates the tolerated gender inequality in the American workplace.

A decade after the EPA was enacted, Roe v. Wade granted women the right to chose and have complete control over their bodies. This monumental decision by the United State Supreme Court has had lasting effects on American society and has continuously been challenged in the American court system. Through the courtroom dockets, it seems that the American justice system and the government have placed a higher priority on woman’s uterus than her right to gender equality in the workplace. The conversation regarding women needs to shift. Women need to become advocates for themselves and the American government needs to strengthen the enforcement of the EPA.

What is most troubling is that the EPA is fifty years old and has not ensured that every American woman is treated equally in the workplace. As a young American woman, how is the American government going to reassure my generation that these workplace violations will end and that the next generation of female American workers will never face these challenges? They have already failed numerous generations, are they going to finally support women and their right to equality?

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Amy Spekhardt

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