Women and Equal Pay: It’s about Time
California took a major step last month toward closing the lingering wage gap between men and women, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 358, one of the toughest pay equity laws in the nation. California and the federal government already have laws banning employers from paying women less than men for the same jobs. The new California Fair Pay Act broadens that prohibition by saying bosses cannot pay employees less than those of the opposite sex for “substantially similar work,” even if their titles are different or they work at different sites.
Women in California who work full time are paid substantially less — a median 84 cents for every dollar — than men, according to a U.S Census Bureau report this year.
Women have been struggling for years with the idea of unequal pay compared to their male counterparts. Ever since women entered the workforce on the greatest scale during World War II while the men went off to fight, they have been forced to do those jobs at a fraction of what the men were paid. Then, to add insult to injury, they were told to go back home where they belonged once the war ended and men returned to the workforce, displacing the female workers in the factories and other positions. Why would women want to go back home and clean house, not earning anything, when they could be working and helping their families more working alongside the men? Thus, the move towards women’s rights began.
It’s taken years for women to be seen as capable of jobs typically meant for men because of the physicality of the position. Men scoffed at the very notion that women could hack it at jobs based in the fields of construction and public service, such as police and firefighting. As women moved more and more into the different areas where men once dominated, women fought and struggled to just be accepted at first, not worrying about the fact they made less. The most important thing was to change men’s perceptions of what women could do besides making a home the man’s sanctuary after a hard day’s work or gracing the workplace in roles that women were relegated like secretaries and nurses. While these could be fulfilling for some, these few positions weren’t going to satisfy all.
Why men didn’t see this revolution coming, no one knows. If men had been told they could only hold two positions, they’d been knocking down doors and beating their way to more equality. It would be the accepted response, but women doing the same thing was just unthinkable. So, women pushed and pushed until they reached at least the acceptance of the majority as they took positions like doctors, pilots, lawyers, and more. Women built themselves up and worked their way to the top of the corporate world, breaking the glass ceiling holding them back. This glass ceiling had been their ultimate triumph. Or so they thought.
As women worked their way up to some of the top positions, they also began to notice something that was just as disturbing as not being allowed to work in the first place. Men with less seniority, less experience, and less education, but in the same position as a woman was getting paid the full dollar compared to women getting just 84% of that dollar. How this possible? What makes men believe they deserve more for less work or at least less entitlement? They haven’t put in the requisite number of hours with the company or the time they need to have the same education. As women, we’re trained to do all we can just to “keep” up with a man, which usually means putting in more hours and more results to prove they’re just as good as men. Why shouldn’t men do the same? With the way the economy bounces up and down, jobs aren’t as secure as they once were. Why should men do less and still get paid more? They shouldn’t.
This belief has finally come to pass with the laws passed within recent years that force companies to pay their employees the same wages, no matter their gender or how good they look in a skirt. These laws have helped women to close some of the pay gaps they’d been experiencing. However, with every law man has created, there’s a loophole somewhere where the company’s lawyers have found to keep women on the lower pay scale. They were safe because employees aren’t allowed to speak about their wages. No matter the rules, employees are going to talk, and they did. Guess what women found out? The biggest, though not really, shock of all is that women are still not paid the same wages as men. While the law had helped women bridge the gap when they shared the same exact position as men, that law had some loopholes indeed.
Come to find out, the law didn’t specify that these men and women had to have the same wages if they were in different locations within the company from different departments to different job sites. They also didn’t have to pay the same wage if the fields were similar, but not the same. For example, a housekeeper and a janitor could be paid differently even though their jobs are essentially the same. One manager could be paid more at one location compared to another manager in another city even if they had the same training or the woman had more training than the man. These loopholes worked well for the company because they could save money by having this inequality continue and there weren’t any consequences to say differently.
Well, now women have the best recourse for themselves in the state of California coming to them on January 1, 2016. This new law will make these loopholes punishable by the court system. It’s holding these companies accountable for their injustices against women in their ranks. Those loopholes are no longer sacred because employees are now free to discuss their salaries and compare them to others within the same ranks as them. This is going to lead to some major shifts within the companies’ policies or they’ll have to face the consequences that’ll cost them more. Women are now able to say that the janitor in the lobby and their housekeeping positions deserve the same pay rate.
With this new law, women have the newest right to stand up and speak out against the pay gap that still exists without fear of punishment from the company. The company can’t take their right to speak up away from them any longer. The company has to stand up and admit to the pay gap or prove that the gap is there for a reason that doesn’t pertain to gender. If they can’t prove it, women now have the right to sue for the damages done by the company and the wages that are due for these women. Just because a woman has the same title and works in a different department or at a different location within the city or state, it doesn’t mean she isn’t entitled to the same pay as the man with the same position or role within the company. On January 1st, she can stand up for herself and speak out against this.
While there are some fears that this is going to cost California because companies are going to leave or just not build locations within the state, the notion that this will hurt in the long term is short sighted. Sure, it may hurt in the beginning since some companies may do just as the scenario is laid out, but as more states push through this type of legislation, companies are going to be forced to change sooner or later. It’s just the way the times are continually changing. The important thing to remember is that this is a momentous occasion in the fight for women’s rights everywhere.
So, if you, as a woman, believe that your company hasn’t been paying you what you deserve while the men within the company in similar positions are earning more, you should reach out to a local law office and fight back. You deserve the right to be paid the same. You put in the effort, the time, and received the training and experience you need for your position. Don’t just stand back and allow men to continue making more when you deserve the same as them. You have a voice and that voice should ring out against this injustice, against the pay gaps that still exist, and most of all, against the inequality that these companies are still perpetuating. Make them accountable. Hold them to the new higher standard of this law.