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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 09, 2016 10:01 pm

As women fall behind, we all pay

Nancy McCammon- Hansen

Disparity in wages between men and women speaks to more than equality of the sexes. It’s indicative of how we view the worth of different professions, how corporate ethics fare and how the continuance of discrimination affects us all.

Indiana women made 75 cents for every dollar men made in 2015. We ranked 41st in the nation for pay equity, with the ninth-highest gender wage gap. In the congressional district that includes Fort Wayne, women earn 72 cents for every dollar men earn, for the seventh-highest wage gap among the nine districts in the state.

These figures are up a penny from 2014.

Nationally, women, on average, earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. African-American women make 71 cents; Hispanic women, 62 cents; and white women, 82 cents. Asian women do best at 95 cents, according to "Under the Bus" by Caroline Fredrickson.

So, if you’re a man, what’s this got to do with you?

When it comes to retirement, your spouse will bring in less Social Security and pension than she would if she were paid equal wages. Women usually live longer than men and need more retirement funds for their life span.

Have daughters? Are their professional choices worth less than those of your sons? Who’s to say a teacher or a social worker, both considered "female" professions, is worth any less to society than an engineer?

"A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it," writes Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times. "In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines – for the very same jobs that more men were doing before."

If your daughter should become divorced or widowed, should your grandchildren have less money for necessities such as housing, clothing and food simply because their female parent is their provider?

If you’re employed, would you be happy making less than your female counterparts for the same job, simply because you’re a man? Lilly Ledbetter is a prime example of this type of discrimination. In her case before the Supreme Court, it was revealed that the Goodyear supervisor, who worked at the Gadsen, Alabama, plant from 1979 until her retirement in 1998, earned $3,727 per month; the lowest-paid male manager was paid $4,286 and the highest-paid male earned $5,236 per month.

How many men would stand for that?

And if you’re a supervisor or company owner, what’s your logic for paying a woman less than a man for the same type of work?

This leads us to the fact that many women accept what they’re offered as salary and don’t negotiate for more money or better benefits.

So what can be done?

First, vote.

There’s a 35 percent gap in voting between those who make $10,000 or less a year as opposed to those who make $75,000 or more, writes William P. Quigley in "Ending Poverty as We Know It."

Second, get involved.

No, not all elected representatives pay adequate attention to their constituents, but they will listen if enough of us speak up often, directly and with solid facts.

Third, teach your daughters to stand up for themselves and your sons to value all people, regardless of gender, for what they bring to the table. Women on the whole in our society are better educated than men. We deserve better in the workplace.

Fourth, evaluate your opinions about the value of work and different professions. There are other ways to save money in business besides salaries.

Fifth, remember that for every dollar "saved" on a woman’s salary, your tax dollars may be going to provide her and her family with food stamps, Medicaid and other services that a decent wage would allow her to pay for herself.

Finally, know that women will continue fighting for equality in the workplace and in other areas of our society. Pay equity is just a small portion of the equality pie. But it’s an important one in that it affects all of us.