Equal Pay Day: An issue of civil rights, economics

Tuesday came and went with little fanfare this week. It was, after all, just another Tuesday.

But its significance rang a little stronger for me, and I would hope for all of the women I know, than just another work day.

Tuesday was dubbed Equal Pay Day by the National Committee on Pay Equity. It symbolizes something very problematic – the amount of time the average woman has to work into the next year to equal the same amount of money a male counterpart would have made the year before.

In other words, a woman has to work at the same job as a man for more than 15 months to make what the man earned in just 12 months.

Not only is this a civil rights issue, it is an economic issue, and one that we should take very seriously.

In our capitalist society, growth is key. If our economy is not growing, it’s dying. And it can only grow when the majority of people have money to spend.

Half of this country’s work force is comprised of women. Imagine the spending power they’d have if they made the same as their male counterparts.

Not to mention the ease making the same paycheck as man does would create for all the single mothers in this country – the number of which far outweigh the number of single fathers.

Equal pay for equal work. It’s a concept so simple it seems ridiculous that it’s even a problem.

But statistics show that women, on average are still making less than their male counterparts for doing the exact same job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time employed women earned just 80.9 percent of what men did in 2012. That’s the widest the pay gap has been since 2005.

It would appear that the recession that hit so many of us right where it hurts punched a little harder at the women of this country.

The most amazing part of all of this is that the 80.9 percent is just an average of all men and all women. When you break it down into different career paths – the financial industry, education, the service industry – it’s actually the higher paying professions that leave women worse off.

It would seem to make sense that low-level positions pay relatively similar wages to men and women, if only because the paychecks are so small that it’s difficult to really take anything away.

But once women start working their way up in their professions, the gap widens.

According to the BLS, women in educational administration make just 67.2 percent of what men make. Female stock brokers make just 69.1 percent of what males do, and female insurance sales agents make just 62.5 percent of what men do.

With the same college education, same grades, same entry-level position and same time spent working their way up the ladder, this is what women have to look forward to.

This discriminatory behavior needs to stop. It does not benefit anyone when women are not treated as the equals of men.

Now, it would seem, is the best time in the history of this country to take action on this issue.

The U.S. Senate currently has 20 female senators – that’s a record. And each of them should be outraged by the wage disparity.

This is 2013. Women are out in the work force, helping drive forward the greatest economy in the world. And they should be compensated fairly for that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal.net.