At this point in the history of the United States of America, there is absolutely no excuse, no explanation worthy of repeating, no “political spin” that can be applied to the following statement of fact:
Women in the U.S. as of June 28, 2012, earn only 77 cents for each dollar made by a man doing the exact same job.
Let that sink in for a bit. Think about that statement in a way that makes it personal. Pretend for a moment that there is someone working on the very same job that occupies your time for at least 40 hours a week. And let’s pretend that the person produces the same quality of work that you do, and doesn’t work any additional overtime than you might work. Yet that person is making 33 cents more than you do for each hour worked.
Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Because it isn’t. And when you take a moment to consider the issue of gender bias and the notion of equal pay for equal work, the facts that pop to the surface are enough to make your blood boil. Or at least simmer.
President John F. Kennedy, according to a recent CNN news story, promised to end discrimination against women at about the same time he promised that one day the U.S. would leave footprints on the moon. In fact, The Equal Pay Act that President Kennedy signed in 1963 — yes, that long ago — prohibited “discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or the production of goods for commerce.”
Apparently, it didn’t take.
Men went to the moon and women have continued to get the small end of the wishbone. The CNN story noted that some of the gap in pay between men and women is attributable, or was in the 1960s, to the likelihood that men dominated higher-paying fields such as engineering and science. Women, on the other hand, were predominate in the lower-earning fields of education and social service. (Let’s
leave our nation’s unwillingness to properly pay teachers and social workers alone for a moment — it’s a subject for another editorial.)
The CNN story, and several others in the national media, recently noted that the employment pay status has closed somewhat in the past few years. There are certainly more female engineers and scientists now than at any time in the nation’s history. And it is also true that women often fall behind on static pay scales when they take time off from work to have and raise children — though we could certainly debate the need for improvement in the attitudes of employers toward maternity and family leave.
Despite some measurable improvement, the fact remains that in this day and age, women — doing the same work as men — are paid on the average 33 cents less for each hour of work.
It’s unconscionable. Or at least it should be.
The Catholic Church has said as much, too.
Two years ago, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, then the Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations (he now is nuncio in Poland) noted in a speech to world leaders that improving the economic condition of women — world wide — is essential to the development and security of families and society.
“Tragically … discrimination (against women) in the professional field, even on the pay and pension scale, are growing concerns,” he said. “Women and girls must be guaranteed their full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including equal access to education and health.”
Pope Benedict XVI has strongly defended the rights of women on many occasions in recent years. Though he was speaking about African women in particular during a speech nearly three years ago, his comments also apply to the women of the U.S. — and the discrimination against them in the workplace.
The pope, in a Catholic News Service story, appealed to people to pay attention to situations of inequality and discrimination against women, and “especially to the ways in which the behavior and attitudes of men, who at times show a lack of sensitivity and responsibility, may be to blame.”
Discrimination against women — in the workplace or anywhere else — is “no part of God’s plan,” Pope Benedict said.
The fact that it is still happening in the U.S. — in both homes and in the workplace — should make us all ashamed.
And it should spur us to fix the problem.