On Monday evening Senate Republicans voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act for the fourth time since 2012, demonstrating once again that it’s okay with them if women and men do equal work without equal pay. But it’s not okay.
There is no time like interview season here at Yale – with résumés falling from the trees and Blue State taken over by coffee-chatting recruiters – to soak this in.
Want to go into finance? Women financial specialists on average earn 66 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to research by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin.
Want to become a physician? Male physicians received an average of $12,194 more annually in research grants than their female counterparts with all factors other then gender held identical, according to a 2012 report by Duke and University of Michigan researchers.
Today women are the primary or co-breadwinner in over 60 percent of American families, yet they make 77 cents for each dollar a man makes, a figure that has barely budged over the last decade.
Women with college degrees do slightly better. Women one year out of college were paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers in 2012, according to a study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The average woman would have to work almost twelve years longer to earn the same amount as her male peer.
Earlier this year the Republican National Committee wrote: “There’s a disparity not because female engineers are making less than male engineers at the same company with comparable experience. The disparity exists because a female social worker makes less than a male engineer.” But according to a wide body of research, that’s dead wrong.
It’s been argued that the wage gap exists because women tend to gravitate toward lower paying fields — but Goldin’s data shows that there are significant pay differences between men and women within the same industry.
Female business majors are paid $7,000 less than their male counterparts one year out of school, according to a fall 2009 study by the AAUW. Women with professional degrees are also not immune. Female MBAs are paid on average $4,600 less in their first job than men with business degrees, a disparity that grows to $30,000 by mid-career, according to research from the non-profit Catalyst.
Even the most elite schools are impacted by the gender pay gap. Male and female graduates from Harvard’s class of 2014 reported unequal compensation for their first jobs, according to a survey by the Harvard Crimson that was published in May. The survey was completed by half of the graduating class.
The Crimson survey found that a “plurality” of women beginning careers in the technology or engineering sectors say they will earn between $50,000 and $69,999, while a “plurality” of men entering the same fields say they will earn between $90,000 and $109,999. Not a single female respondent entering finance said that she would earn $90,000 or more, while 29 percent of men said they would. Across all industries, 19 percent of men employed immediately after graduating from Harvard in May reported that they will earn a starting salary of $90,000 or more, versus just 4 percent of employed women.
Senator Barbara Boxer spoke for many of us recently when she declared: “If it were reversed, I’d be standing for the men. It’s not right.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act, co-sponsored by our Rep. Rosa DeLauro, is a needed update to the 1963 Equal Pay Act. It would prevent employers from retaliating against employees who inquire about wage practices or share their own wages, establish tougher penalties for cases of pay discrimination, create a grant program to train women on wage negotiation skills and narrow the definition of what is considered a legitimate justification for pay disparities between men and women in the same jobs.
The Paycheck Fairness Act will not fix the gender pay gap problem, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. DeLauro was right to support it, and I hope she will reintroduce it again when its chances of passage are better.
Meanwhile, we all must advocate much more strongly for policies such as pay transparency that help ensure equal pay for equal work. Being aware of the gender pay gap is the first step toward change. Fighting for fairness is the next.
Senate Republicans should be ashamed of their votes on Monday. American women deserve better.
Viveca Morris is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. Her columns run on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at email@example.com.