Today, women all around the world are fighting for equal pay, promotion, and professional opportunities. The problem stems from a long history of women being perceived as being inferior to men. In the past, women were not allowed to vote, go to school in some areas, and their roles in society were limited.
In 2015, women in the United States were earning 80 cents for every dollar a man earned. Many acts and amendments have been proposed to ensure that men and women get equal pay for equal work. Due to limited enforcement and opposition to the idea, the acts and amendments were either never enforced or never passed.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which stated that it would be “illegal to pay women and men working in the same place different salaries for similar work,” didn’t achieve its goal due to limitations on enforcement.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), passed by Congress in 1972, was never ratified by enough states to become part of the Constitution. The amendment would have given women the right to equal pay for doing the same amount of work as men.
The pay gap among women and men is due to many different reasons. In the Atlantic article “Why Are Women Paid Less?” Jordan Weissman cites a Cornell economist who argues that “Discrimination, the careers women choose, and the burdens of motherhood could all play a role [in creating the pay gap].” Historically, and even today, women often have to leave their jobs to take care of their children. This affects women when they return to work because they may get less work hours or even face demotion.
Boston Voices and Experiences on Pay Inequality
Many people have distinct opinions on pay inequality. Jessie Gerson, Deputy Director of WriteBoston, says, “Our executive director takes feminism and gender equality seriously. But I know that is not always the case. I have friends who work in situations where their race, sexuality, or gender impacts the treatment they receive professionally.”
Gerson reflected that discrimination can come in many different forms. “I have a dear friend who is an African-American woman,” Gerson says. “She received a work evaluation stating that she was too ‘aggressive’ in the workplace and it made people uncomfortable. I firmly believe that had she been a white man she would not have received this feedback. Instead, she would have been perceived as a ‘go-getter.’ This kind of thing keeps minorities and women from rising to positions of power professionally and so the discrimination becomes self-perpetuating.”
Gerson gives her opinion on why females get paid unequally and says, “I find it extremely distressing that in 2016 we still need to fight for equal pay for equal work. I also believe that we need to stop undervaluing traditionally female-dominated fields like nursing and education. Basically, I think that sexism and lack of respect for emotional labor create and perpetuate pay inequities.”
Motherhood can also be more burdensome on the female than the male. Gerson says from experience, “I have a two-year old daughter. When she was born, I was working for the Boston Public Schools. I only got 3 months, unpaid maternity leave. That’s not acceptable.”
Her solution to the problem would be to “organize society so that everyone, men and women, the affluent and the non-affluent, all have the ability to make choices around their family life that work for them.”
Mageney Omar, a junior from the John D. O’Bryant, says that she started working at the age of 15 and now works at “Turn It Around.” She comments, “My boss treats me equally like everyone else that I work with.” Omar believes “it’s unfair that women get paid less and unequally compared to men.” She thinks the reason for the problem is that “bosses and employers feel that men perform better in certain professions than women.”
Rayven Frierson, also a junior at the O’Bryant, says that she started working at 14 and is currently working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Pathology department. Of her workplace, she says, “My boss does treat everyone equally. Everyone is considered a person in the workplace. We are not looked at based on our ethnicity or gender since my department is pretty diverse.”
Frierson states that she has no idea why women get paid less than men. “I was raised in a female dominant environment,” she said. “My mother raised me on her own without my father. The world has changed from women being inferior to men, to women standing on their own two feet.”
*Full disclosure: WriteBoston is the parent organization of Teens in Print.