EQUAL PAY DAY
By Patricia Yosha
I see red when I mark Equal Pay Day on my calendar! Here’s why: It will take until Tuesday, April 14, Equal Pay Day, for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the previous year. Because women on average earn less, they must work two days longer every week for the same pay. For women of color, the wage gap is even greater.
Let me be more specific. Women in New Hampshire earn 79 cents for every one dollar men earn. This is worse than the national average – 82 cents. On average, NH women earn $772 a week while NH men earn $975 a week. That’s a gap of $10,556 each year!
In New Hampshire, 58% of women have a four-year college degree, ranking 7th in the nation education-wise. But the median annual earnings of women with that college degree is $38,700, 21st in the nation. The earnings gap between college educated men and women who work FULL-TIME, YEAR-ROUND is 68.7%; we rank 42nd in the nation on this measure.
There’s more that makes me see red: Only 13% of females working full-time in New Hampshire earn over $100,000 annually. Only 8% of CEOs in this state are female. Only 25.8% of businesses are OWNED by females. Yet 47% of full-time and part-time workers are female. But 60% of workers at or near the minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) are female! And 10.1% of women in this state are considered living in poverty. (All of these figures can be found in a report issued by the New Hampshire Women’s Policy Institute and by the National Committee on Pay Equity.)
Why does this gap continue? Until now, wage secrecy has been a major factor. Employers frequently had policies that forbad workers from discussing their salaries, even though the policies were unfair and sometimes even illegal. Many corporate cultures intimidated workers by making it taboo to discuss salary. And, because women frequently didn’t know what a job truly paid, the often didn’t negotiate a new salary. That should be changing now in our state:
Since 2007, New Hampshire law has prohibited employers from paying employees different wages on the basis of sex. But enactment in the workplace has not been consistent. Fortunately, on January 1, 2015, a new paycheck equity law took effect in New Hampshire. The new legislation prevents employers from retaliating against an employee who files a complaint about gender wage discrimination. The new provision also prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign a contract or waiver that would prohibit the employees from disclosing their own pay information, and the employer cannot terminate, discipline or otherwise discriminate against employees for disclosing their own compensation or benefits information. Wage secrecy should no longer be an impediment to pay equity.
This legislation is hugely important! But it will not immediately solve wage inequity in New Hampshire. Occupational segregation continues, though we can see glacial change in some fields. (Law is probably the most noticeable.) Secretaries and administrative assistants (97% female); registered nurses (90% female) and elementary and middle school teachers (70% females) are still examples. Median annual income for these jobs range from $27,000 to $35000. Male occupational concentration in jobs from drivers and sales workers to manufacturing reps and computer software engineers pay from $33,000-$72,000 annually.
There is room for optimism in the national push for women to join men in focusing on STEM careers, which historically pay higher wages than many others: (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The negative stereotypes of females’ assumed inability or innate disinterest in these fields are being energetically opposed in education, business and industry. Mass advertising in print and television point to this expanded appeal.
Traditional parenting responsibility is another cause of gender wage inequity. Given their lower earnings, women are usually the parent who takes time off to raise small children. That means they are out of the workforce for a few years, which lowers their earnings when they return. For those mothers of young children who do remain in the labor force, many are engaged in part-time employment, which further accounts for their lower incomes.
There is, in some circles, a growing acceptance of parenting as a mother AND father responsibility, and, in some workplaces, job flexibility practices, which enable women to develop more equitable working lives.
There are numerous other explanations for the wage gap: discrimination, sometimes subtle, is practiced more widely than we may realize. Discrimination in hiring and in promotion have resulted in numerous lawsuits, as we have all seen. In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) received 938 NEW charges of wage discrimination. In that year, the EEOC recovered some huge monetary settlements for wage discrimination. For example: an employee of the Department of Justice was awarded $179,000 for gender wage discrimination; Royal Tire, Inc. paid $182,500 for a woman who suffered pay discrimination; Market Burgers paid $100,000 in a settlement for the same reason. But lawsuits are expensive, so women suffering discrimination do not frequently persist in attempting to find remedies for pay discrimination.
When the Supreme Court determined in 2007 that Lily Ledbetter had not met the technical guidelines for filing her pay discrimination suit, the US Congress immediately set to correct that unfair decision, and the Fair Pay Act was signed into law in 2009. However, it is clear stronger measures are needed to combat continued practices which allow pay disparity between women and men to continue. So the Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in 2009. This bill was designed as an amendment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and would have expanded damages under the Equal Pay Act, and proposed voluntary guidelines to show employers how to evaluate jobs with the goal of eliminating unfair disparities. This bill was defeated by the U.S. Senate in 2015– in a third attempt to have it enacted. Not a single Republican supported the bill!
The major oppositional argument was that the free market should determine comparable worth, not the government. The presumption is that businesses will look favorably on situations that could require them to pay higher wages! (We have experienced in this country that, without LAWS, much business practice does not change out of the goodness of business people’s hearts. It took LAWS to bring about the end of educational segregation and other race discrimination practices. It took LAWS to bring about women’s right to vote!)
Today’s compensation systems still often reflect the bias of our cultural history. In order to call attention to continued pay inequities, women declare April 14, 2015 EQUAL PAY DAY.
Our President has some ideas on how you can ignite conversations about gender equality in our state and around the world
New Hampshire citizens and supporters of the NHWF,
March is Women’s History Month! If you are looking for a way to do something meaningful, then I have just the suggestion. Contact your area schools and offer to come do a classroom presentation. As a former teacher and a sometimes presenter in local classrooms, I know how much this is appreciated. It’s also critically important for girls to see women who actually work in some of the professions about which they may be thinking. Our own Nyomi Guzman presented to 800 students at UNH-Durham on March 16. (Go Nyomi!) Just call the school, identify yourself, and let them know you’re willing to do a classroom presentation for Women’s History Month if any teacher is interested. The theme for 2015 Women’s History Month is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” Don’t know what to talk about? Here are some suggestions: How are things different today than they were when you were their age? In my case, for instance, women could not get their own credit cards. Share with them your successes and also some challenges of “making it” in your chosen profession.
Here’s a timeline of women’s history that you can share:
Visit the website for the American Assn of University Women which has some ideas and links:
Make your list of the ten most powerful women. (Time’s list is at http://www.timeforkids.com/photos-video/slideshow/10-powerful-women/81386) Be sure to find out who they would add to that list.
Talk about someone close to their age, like Malala Yousafzai, who is making history:
We are collaborating with the Women’s Heritage Trail here in NH, so focus on the 27 NH women for whom herstorical markers will be placed around the state – be sure to note the ones in your region:
Talk about New Hampshire Women’s Foundation and why there’s a need for our organization:
Be sure to let us know where you went, what you discussed, and how many students’ lives you impacted by commenting on this blog.
A World of Possibilities
Back when I was young, if you were to ask a teenage girl what she wanted to be, the answer would inevitably involve one of the “helping” professions like nursing, social work or teaching, or maybe she wanted “to get married.” I spent years teaching high school mathematics from which I received both enjoyment and great reward, and I’ve been married to a remarkable man for decades.
When I was in high school, girls did not aspire to be political leaders. But, I am also happy to say that I felt comfortable as the Speaker of the largest statehouse chamber in the country.
All girls should have, and should fully believe they have, a world of possibilities open to them!
What happened between then and now that changed me from simply going along with the status quo to actively advocating on behalf of women and girls began with an incident that, unfortunately, is still too common. During my early 20’s, I worked down the hall from a single mom in Charleston, SC. One night she was sexually assaulted when a man broke into her apartment. I witnessed firsthand the devastating impact it had on her life. I saw how it crippled her. I felt helpless – and angry, and I wanted to do something about it!
Enter People Against Rape. PAR is a sexual advocacy program offering support and services for survivors of sexual assault. They offered the survivor comfort and helped her to take back control of her life. They offered me a wonderful opportunity to learn more about sexual violence, to advocate on behalf of survivors, to write and speak about this issue, and to work for systemic cultural change. In short, I became an activist.
And so began a lifetime of advocating for women’s economic, social and political equality. In the process I honed my skills and increased my knowledge.
After moving to New Hampshire, I put these skills to use at SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services), SHARPP at UNH (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program), and NARAL Pro-Choice NH. After all, how can a woman feel powerful if she feels the constant threat of violence? How can a woman feel powerful if she can’t even make decisions about her own body and healthcare? How can a woman feel economically powerful if she’s taught from an early age that there are certain fields of study that “girls don’t do”?
Almost two decades ago, I was convinced to turn my efforts to the political realm, essentially to change the venue for my activism. I worked not only on sexual violence and reproductive choice, but also on issues of social and economic justice, including increasing the minimum wage, pay equity, and expanding the availability of affordable early childhood education. Ultimately, I was elected by my colleagues as the speaker of the house. In that role I was ever conscious that I would be judged not just as myself, but as a woman speaker. I felt the extra weight of gender as my actions were scrutinized. I hope I represented women well.
Today I have the honor to be the first to lead The NH Women’s Foundation, a newly merged organization whose mission has been my life’s work. Fortunately, a lot has changed since I was a teenager – and even since Beijing in 1995 – but there’s so much more to do.
I hope you’re as ready as I am to roll up your sleeves and work and to raise your voice. It will take a very large chorus, but the result will be a better world not just for women and girls, but for families, communities and businesses as well. There’s no better time than now for you to get engaged with the Women’s Foundation.
With over 100 years of shared history in this newly merged organization, we are moving forward with a shared mission to promote opportunity and equality for women and girls in the Granite State. Join us, in whatever way is most comfortable for you…join a committee, make a donation, participate in one of our upcoming Listening Sessions. I will be traveling across the state over the next few months and look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones! In the meantime, feel free call me to discuss ways that you can work with us to help drive our mission forward.
The documentary film ‘A Path Appears’ was shown at the Red River Theater in Concord last night. It was an incredible opportunity for the New Hampshire community to come together and learn about a topic that may be unexplored by many: human trafficking.
The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation was able to host Jasmine Marino, who is a survivor of human trafficking, after the film showing and the audience had the chance to hear about her experience first-hand and how this impacted her life. She even championed changing the law in New Hampshire to help prevent human trafficking in the state and we are grateful for her efforts.
You can see a Letter to the Editor from State Representative Suzanne Harvey in the Concord Monitor in this link here. This film and event fully follows the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation’s “Supporting Women and Girls at Risk” agenda item. Make sure you let us know what you think of the film!
The Eagle Tribune just released an article that shows the progress that women in New Hampshire made during this past legislative session. Below is a short quote from the article that summarizes the new laws:
“The laws, adopted by the Legislature last session, do everything from bolstering domestic violence regulations to making sure women receive equal pay.
They include the establishment of domestic violence as a crime and the termination of parental rights for men who rape and impregnate women.
The state’s new equal pay law targets employers who discriminate by paying women less than men doing the same job.
The law also cracks down on employers who retaliate against workers who discuss their wages while on the job.
Other laws that took effect New Year’s Day no longer consider adultery a crime in the state and make it illegal to financially exploit someone who is elderly, disabled or not able to care for themselves.”
For more information on each issue, click here.