On Tuesday, April 12, Equal Pay Day was observed. This is “the date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to USA Today.
The date is April 12, unless you’re a mother (June 4), African American (July 8), Native American (Sept. 8), or Latina (Oct. 8). Though these dates vary according to the source used, they are all are relatively close to each other. The dates listed above were from 2015 and the source was an infographic from Family Forward Oregon that a friend recently posted on social media to promote discussion and awareness on Tuesday.
There are two questions that arise from this awareness. First, why care if you’re not in any of these categories? And second, now that you know equal pay is an issue, what can be done about it?
A couple of thoughts about question one – though you may not be represented in any of the categories above, 50.8 percent of people counted in the 2010 census were female and 47 percent of the total labor force are women. In addition, almost everyone has loved ones who are women, and for some family units, women are the primary wage earners. Equal pay is an issue of fairness that has both economic and social consequences when one person earns less than another for the same work, regardless of the reason why.
Regarding question two, the infographic from Family Forward Oregon has a few suggestions about actions to take, including making sure “all workers have access to paid family leave and paid sick time,” “making childcare more affordable,” and “STOP discriminating against women!” I would also encourage discussion with policymakers about the effects families when it comes to lack of equal pay. Though not impossible, I think it’s harder for a policymaker to look a worker in the eye and justify to her face why she is not worth just as much as her male counterpart.
Finally, there is the notion that certain jobs are less valuable than others, which is a societal issue, to be sure, as they have been called “women’s work” in the past. But these jobs can still be dangerous and should still justify living wages for a full day’s work to support loved ones, whether the worker is a man or women. This excellent article, “The Workers Caring For Our Grandparents Are Paid Poverty Wages,” by Bryce Covert via Twitter explains the situation for some workers, the majority of whom are women, in one such job. Please take the time to read it, as there is insightful information on a variety of issues and concerns that nursing assistants, people we are relying on to provide professional care for others, face. These issues include pay, training, understaffed facilities, safety, high injury rates, and high turnover rates.
There is nothing fair or equal about a worker who, while providing for her own family on a very meager salary, has the care and compassion to “buy soap, gloves, and even diapers when the supply runs out and the owners won’t buy more” because the elderly or disabled people who they are working for are also someone’s loved ones, and most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
That’s why Equal Pay Day matters and why people should get paid the same for a similar position, regardless of gender, race, or family status. Because it’s the right thing to do.
*Image courtesy of FamilyForwardOregon.org