By Jillian Gilchrest, Age 34
It seems apropos that today, on my daughters 4th birthday, we recognize ‘Equal Pay Day’, a date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work in order to earn what men have made in the previous year. As I raise her to believe that she can be anything she puts her mind to, how do I explain that regardless, she can expect to be paid less than her male counterpart.
What I find even more frustrating than pay inequity is that today, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, I’ve already read two articles that challenge the very existence of the pay gap.
Increasingly, it seems like there is a desire to discredit the existence of a pay gap instead of trying to work to address it. I’ve read (and been told to my face) that women with less education shouldn’t be paid as much as someone with an advanced degree (no shit Sherlock). I’ve also heard legitimate reasons for the pay gap– that a larger proportion of women work part-time or women tend to work in professions that pay less, used as arguments against addressing the pay gap. There are a whole host of reasons for the pay gap–discrimination, job choice, negotiating skills, time out of the workforce to care for children, business practices, inherent bias, part-time labor, etc. The fact remains that the median earnings of women is still less than that of men, and for women of color the inequity is even greater. And, the pay gap exists within various industries–the top 20 industries with the highest pay gap can be found here. So, instead of arguing about it, shouldn’t we all work to change it?
I am certainly not naive to the fact that there is a very real effort to debunk the existence of the pay gap in order to prevent policies and practices from being implemented which can lead to a more equal playing field for all workers, women and men. But today, as I think about my daughter and all that she has become in her 4 short years, uniquely herself, I want her to grow up seeing the beauty and the strength in being a woman, different than her brother, but his equal. And, I want this country to stop treating womanhood as something to overcome, but instead to challenge institutions, policies, and practices that were predicated on women not having rights, being relegated to the home, and believed to be less than men.
Hopefully, my daughter’s birthday will never fall on ‘Equal Pay Day’ ever again and some day when she learns about the pay gap it will be in the context of our country’s history.