If you haven’t lived under a rock for the past few years, you know our nation has slowly been trying to recover from a deep recession. Unemployment rates steadily have been decreasing, with 2.3 million jobs added during the recovery. Unfortunately, only 12.3 percent of those jobs went to American women, according to the National Women’s Law Center. At these jobs, women only make 77.4 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to pay-equity.org. Men, if you don’t think this is relevant to you, remember these are your sisters, wives and daughters being discriminated against.
April 17 was National Equal Pay Day, which President Obama commemorated with the statement, “We must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.” National Equal Pay Day marks the number of extra days women would have to work during 2012 in order to earn, on average, as much as their male counterparts did during 2011.
Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity during 1996 to make the public aware of the gender wage gap. Women then earned 73.8 cents for every dollar men earned, based on Census figures of the median wages of all full-time, year-round workers. Today, 16 years later, that gap has increased only one percent.
Much of the blame for higher unemployment rates for women lies with the steep loss of government jobs, particularly with local school districts, where women dominate, according to an April 2012 CNN article. The reasoning for lower women’s wages is a bit less clear-cut. The most recurring argument is that women often have less experience because of years spent at home raising children, and will never reach their full professional potential without giving up the home values they cherish. Employers will not want to pay women as much because they will require time off for maternity leave. Another is that women simply choose lower paying jobs, thus should be content with the meager earnings.
I don’t know about my fellow females, but these reasons just do not cut it in my book. Government jobs in school districts should not be at the top of job cuts in America, as education is the groundwork for our civilization. I never have understood why teachers traditionally are paid lower wages in the first place. Dr. Bonnie Mitchell-Green, Truman State sociology professor, even stated that she thinks early child development teachers probably should be getting paid more than she and her college-level colleagues, as they are the ones shaping the basic foundations for children to grow and learn to contribute to society. Many women choose jobs like teaching and nursing because of their typically nurturing character. Putting this characteristic to good use should not be considered detrimental as parties against equal pay claim.
The excuse that women should be paid less because they eventually will take maternity leave is simply inexcusable. Many would agree that being a mother is the most important job of all, and should not be a reason for loss of pay. The idea that women are almost punished for bringing life into the world is not terribly far from the truth. Maternity should not be a factor in the wages of a woman performing the exact same job at the exact same level of her male counterpart.
To wrap things up, I will end with President Obama’s closing statement from National Equal Pay Day: “Equal pay will strengthen our families, grow our economy and enable the best ideas and boldest innovations to flourish. Let us resolve to become a nation that values the contributions of our daughters as much as those of our sons, denies them no opportunity, and sets no limits on their dreams.” My hope is that all of America will soon hear and respect this sentiment.