Equal Pay/Fair Wage

Year Ends With Wider-Than-Ever Wage Gap

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Women's pay gap in 2003 is actually wider than it was 20 years ago. As a consequence, baby boomer women face a financial crisis, with far less money than men to pay for their typically longer retirement years.

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Women in Dark About Wage Disparity

Despite the long-term implications, many women are unaware of the disparity in wages. When Spence spoke recently to a group of female certified accountants, she says they were surprised to learn that they were making an average $25,000 less than their male counterparts. She believes women are too self-effacing when it comes to negotiating higher salaries. Too often, she says, they assume the first offer is the best offer or deep down they may feel that they are undeserving of more.

Maloney agrees that too few women see the wage gap as a problem. "The growing perception that there is no problem is a huge problem in itself," she says.

Maloney believes the problem persists because of discrimination. Although equal pay is mandated by law, that does not stop employers from hiring a man over a woman because they believe that she will take time out to care for her family.

Maloney's answer to the problem is to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She has a bill before Congress supporting the amendment, which women's rights advocates have been pushing since 1972 and which has been ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states.

"If this society can't pass the equality amendment, they are not accepting men and women as equals," she says.

Maloney and Dingell are also working to establish a new center--which they would like to see located at a public university--that would study the wage gap and find policy solutions to improve the lives of women in the workplace.

Incentives Can Narrow the Gap

Spence, the president of the National Association for Female Executives, says some states can close the wage gap by as much as 30 percent by giving incentives to private employers. In Maine, for example, employers who examine their pay practices and then take steps toward making them more equitable, receive a so-called presumption of compliance that puts a heavier burden of proof on employees who file gender discrimination complaints.

Some companies are also rectifying the problem on their own. Spence says IBM does an annual examination of its salaries. If a disparity is found, a manager at the White Plains, N.Y., business equipment giant must provide a written explanation for it. If those reasons are considered inadequate, the employee must receive the difference in pay.

Spence adds that women must also lobby their companies to look at and rectify salary differences. And they should use the numbers from surveys like the association's to negotiate bigger paychecks.

Political leaders can also give women a pay boost, by doing such things as ranking companies according to their handling of gendering issues and hailing those that do a good job. Recently, for instance, New York City's Commission on Women's Issues conducted a survey of companies in the city to measure which were the best places for women to work.

The commission, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as advisors, singled out five companies, American Express, AOL Time Warner, Deloitte and Touche, JP Morgan Chase and New York University. They were said to offer not only paid maternity leave and career development for women, but also child care, leave for adoptions and health and wellness programs.

Luchina Fisher is a writer and producer in New York.


For more information:

Congresswoman Carolyn P. Maloney--
"Women's Earnings: Work Patterns Partially Explain Difference between Men's and Women's Earnings"
(Adobe PDF format):

The National Association for Female Executives:





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