Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blogging for #FairPay

I must confess, I didn't know the story behind Lilly Ledbetter. I had heard her name in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but that would be it. If you don't know either, go read her story here.

To find out more about the Fair Pay Campaign here, and be sure to check out all the nice linky-links they have for you to click. Also check out the Feminist Majority Foundation's article on Equal Pay Day. You might also want to read this blog post, which is much better than the rambling drivel you will encounter below.

I feel a little silly blogging about equal pay, because my job actually does have equal pay. We have a chart, voted on by the school board (months after we sign out contract), that says how much we get paid, based on how many years we've taught. It has nothing to do with job performance; just the number of years you have survived in the trenches. Therefore, a guy with 5 years of experience is going to make the same amount as a girl with 5 years of experience.

Many aspects of teaching stink, but at least we have job security (a nice commodity in a recession) and equal pay.*

When I was interviewing for my first job, I interviewed with two districts. One had offered me a job first, but I really wanted to work at the other district. My step-dad told me to use the first job offer as leverage with the second district, to get the second district to offer me more money. I tried to explain to him that education didn't work that way, that I was not going to find out my salary until sometime in August (I was interviewing in March/April).

I don't get to ask for a raise. I get a raise based on the district's taxes, or lack thereof. If there is money, I get a raise whether I deserve it or not. (If I were to stay in this district, I'd get a pretty hefty raise next year because they're desperate for teachers and are hoping to attract employees with a higher paycheck.)

The point to all this? There are two: A) my work is not rewarded; nobody cares if I do a good job or not, I'd still get paid the same. But that's not related to today's topic, so we won't harp on that today. B) I may not get to ask for a raise when I do a good job, but you do.

I'll be the first to admit I'm rather ignorant about this topic (again, then why did I sign up to blog for it? Because that's how I roll); part of the reason for that is because this particular issue does not affect me directly (yet). However, my ignorance and inexperience is not going to stop me from mouthing off about it, and saying something that might ruffle quite a few feathers.

Ladies, part of this wage difference might be our own fault.

GENERALLY (not always), women tend to be reluctant to toot their own horn. Men have no problem singing their own praises, especially successful business men (that's how they got where they are, after all). This becomes a problem when performance evaluations come up: your male colleague will tell the evaluator about all the great things he has done (sometimes taking credit for a team's or coworker's efforts) and why he deserves a raise; while you will, generally, try to be polite, modest, and not come across as conceited, so you will downplay compliments, attribute your success to the team's efforts, etc.

We tend to be uncomfortable selling ourselves, so when it's time to decide who gets a raise, or how much of a raise, the guy, who did a stellar job of selling himself and demonstrating what a valuable asset he is to the company, will get a beefy raise. The woman, who prefers to just get the job done without drawing extra attention to herself, work behind the scenes, and who presentr herself more as a "team player" instead of a strong leader, is not going to seem as valuable to the evaluator, so she won't get the same raise.

When women try to be more aggressive and straightforward, when we try to talk "like men," we get tagged as "a bitch" or "a ball-buster." (Uh... Hillary, anyone? HOW DARE SHE HAVE OPINIONS AND SPEAK UP!)

I'm scared to say too much on the subject, because it's a touchy one and I'm not the expert. For a quick intro, read this article by Deborah Tannen. For the full thing, read her book Talking from 9 to 5, about how men and women communicate in the workplace. FASCINATING READ.

(As she says in the article, not ALL MEN follow those patterns and not ALL WOMEN do either, but a large part of what she says is true for a large part of men and women, and our society. Being aware of these communication differences -- and biases -- is taking a huge step toward improving communication and being heard.)

I know these communication differences are not the only reason for the discrepancy in pay between men and women. But there's something to it: we women need to speak up about this more. Things like Equal Pay Day are a good start, but "act locally." Ask for that raise. Make sure your boss knows how much he needs you and what an asset you are. Toot your own horn, often.

We have to fight for these things, locally and globally. They're not just going to give it to us because it's the right thing to do. (Yes, it is sad. But we do have to convince them.)

Call your Senators and urge them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act! Sign up to receive alerts and updates from the National Women's Law Center, so you know what's going on and what you can do about it. Talk about this at the water cooler! We need to ask for what we want, out loud.

Here ends today's rant. I'll leave you with a few bullet points (from NWLC), just for fun:
  • Today, Equal Pay Day, marks the point in 2009 when the avg woman’s wages finally catch up with those paid 2 the avg man in 2008
  • It takes women in the U.S. almost 16 months to be paid as much as men were paid in a year. http://bit.ly/KvkVH
  • Women in the U.S. are still paid only 78¢ for every dollar paid to men. http://bit.ly/KvkVH
  • Urge your Senators to vote YES on the Paycheck Fairness Act: http://bit.ly/yuQNU
  • See what the wage gap is for women in your state: http://bit.ly/JWYEv

*That is, if you don't take into consideration the stipends coaches get... I have no info on those, but A) coaches tend to be male (yes, even for girls' sports) and B) FOOTBALL. How much do the seventeen FOOTBALL coaches make, as opposed to the girls' basketball coach? (Remember, this is TEXAS.)


  1. I find it so weird that people act like "If a woman wants to be heard she should speak up and be heard!" Then if they do they are being obnoxious, "bitchy," etc. What the hell people!

    On a side note, I was going to starting to wonder where you disappeared to! :)

  2. We walk a fine line...

    (I've been meaning to write a short post, explaining that I'm not dead... I have tons of posts I want to write. Maybe after Script Frenzy I'll catch up.)

  3. I think that part of the reason that women are generally paid less than men is because of the risk an employer takes on when hiring a woman. When a woman you've hired decides to have a baby, you as an employer are legally required to give her 3 months off. Additionally, many women decide to leave their job at the end of that maternity leave to become a full time mother. This risk does not commonly apply to men. I'm not saying that I agree that women should therefore be paid less, rather just pointing out a probable explanation...

  4. I think that's a common cop-out.

    I've been working for 8 years, and haven't had a single baby. The people I've been working for can't tell me they're going to pay me less because I MIGHT COULD PERHAPS have a baby and take time off.

    Should smokers get paid less, because they might get lung cancer and need time off for chemo treatments? Should obese people get paid less because they might need gastric bypass surgery and need time off to recover?

    Why are we singling out women for their potential medical expenses/time off?

    Should we also pay single people less, because they might get married and take time off for the honeymoon?

    Assuming a woman is going to have a baby just because she's a woman is a sexist assumption. Not all women are planning on bearing children, and they're definitely not going to have one each year with each employer. Potential maternity leave is no excuse to pay us less.

  5. Businesses are legally required to give men 12weeks of leave, too, when they have a baby. They may be less likely to take the full time (esp since it's UNPAID) but the requirement is the same. I also see at least 3 different dads who come to Gymboree regularly (every week, two days a week), meaning they're most likely stay-at-home dads. More and more men are choosing to stay home as well.

    I have read that pay for the same job is closer to 97 cents on the dollar, that the majority of the discrepancy in pay between men and women is b/c of the types of jobs men and women get, which is a different issues that also needs to be looked at and addressed. I also might be wrong about those numbers, don't have any links ot back it up just what I remember reading a few years back.

    BTW I don't think you should feel at all wierd posting about this just b/c it doesn't directly affect you (yet). Imagine where we'd be if people only spoke out about the issues that directly affect them!

  6. One of the links above gives a state-by-state breakdown; I think DC pay 97 cents to the dollar (Wyoming pays 63 cents to the dollar); 78 is the average. Maybe the studies that claim 97 cents to the dollar are using numbers from the DC area, to make the outcome look better? (Statistics are all LIES anyway...) Or, they could take jobs that are traditionally "female" (like teaching) and/or jobs that have a set payscale (like teaching) where the gap is not as large.

    I guess what made me feel "inadequate" about blogging about this was how uninformed I felt about it, which was partly due to the fact that it's not something that affects me so I haven't gotten very involved in it...