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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: After 51 years, it’s time for equality on payday

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Published:   |   Updated: April 14, 2014 at 06:08 AM

At a time when pay for (mostly male) corporate CEOs has risen to levels even movie stars would envy, one could reasonably ask why the question of gender salary equality in the work place is even an issue. That notion of unequal pay for equal work should be as archaic as a Chevy Vega.

It is not.

More than 50 years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, government data shows women are being paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That’s only a 17-cent improvement in the 51 years since the law that “prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages” was signed.

That’s not good enough.

It’s even worse when one considers that women have been vital to the workforce for decades, back to the days when Rosie the Riveter worked in the factories as part of the war effort.

That doesn’t exactly mesh with the myth television used to spin that Ozzie went to work and Harriet had dinner waiting on the table when he got home.

It was a simple, charming notion of a quaint, pleasant America, but then Harriet had to go and ruin things when she noticed she worked as hard as Ozzie while running the home but wasn’t getting paid.

Thus, the Equal Pay Act, which apparently is another myth even 51 years after it was signed

After he raised the issue of equal pay in his State of the Union speech, it had to be embarrassing for President Barack Obama to learn female staffers at the White House make less than men.

That was after a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Labor concluded:

“While women’s labor force participation has increased dramatically in recent decades, and women are breaking barriers in every industry, they continue to earn less than men and be at greater risk for income insecurity.”

A report on healthaffairs.org said newly trained doctors in New York made nearly $17,000 a year more than their female counterparts. After reviewing 2010 Census data, Bloomberg News reported that women made more than men in only one of 265 major occupations. The gap was especially pronounced on Wall Street.

Predictably, there continues to be much scoffing about this issue from those who think everything is hunky and dory. Opponents threw out their own statistics and explanations for why they say the pay gap is an elaborate left-wing fabrication.

They argue that more women than ever hold positions of power. General Motors recently named it’s first female CEO. Women sit on the Supreme Court. With more women earning bachelor’s degrees now than men, the gap is likely to decrease in the coming years.

Even if it doesn’t, it is a fact that many women with college credentials choose family over career. Depending on how you want to figure the books, that could bring down the average.

All true.

Let’s deal with another reality, though.

It has been 51 years since the field was supposed to be leveled, but for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 23 cents less. Opponents can’t hide from that number. Why they would even want to shows exactly why we still have a problem.

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