WTF?! "Equal" Pay Day

Apr 11 2011 Published by under academia, gender

It is not news that, on average, men make more than women to do the same job. This year 12 April is Equal Pay day. From the AAUW website:

Equal Pay Day is the symbolic point at which the average woman's salary finally catches up to the average man's earnings from the previous year. This year, Equal Pay Day falls on April 12.

How fucking much does that suck?!?!!! It really blows my mind that this is state of affairs. It may be that some women "choose" jobs that are lower-paying because it works better for their family. I don't have a problem with this, really. Everyone has to make decisions that are best for their family and situation. It strikes me, however, that it is overwhelmingly the woman that ends up passing on a career for the good of the family. I can't help but wonder about how society exerts pressures on us that maybe we aren't even aware of.

When I was negotiating my faculty position, I had heard that women make less than men on the tenure track because they just don't ask for more. I work at a public institution, and the salaries of all government employees are publicly available. I had also looked up the numbers for my state on the AAUP Faculty Salary Survey. So I knew going in to the negotiations that women in every department of my university makes ~10% less than their male counterparts. I find this rather embarrassing, but the data are there. In fact, other recently hired women in my MRU made significantly less than men. When I got my offer, the salary was lower than what I had been expecting based on my research. So I asked for more. That's the right answer, yes? But when I brought up salary during the negotiations, mentioning what I considered relevant similar salaries. But my Chair did not find this a very convincing argument, even after I raised up the fact that women in the school routinely make less than men. I think that he knew I would probably not walk away from the job over this amount of salary. It was only when I reminded him that I would be bringing in indirect $ from Day 1 (from my R00) that he agreed to talk to the Dean. In the end, I got what I think is a pretty fair deal. Could a man have done better? I don't know. Based on the data, I can only say "probably". Maybe I could have pushed harder. But, being a woman, that could also have backfired.

So I don't know what the right answer is. But today I will advertise Equal Pay Day, and I will attend the local AAUW event. I hope that by raising up  this problem, we can start the process of correcting the situation.

h/t to Pascale over at WhizBang, who brought "Equal" pay day to my attention.

UPDATE: Don't miss these other excellent "Equal" Pay Day posts on Scientopia:

Pascale-$16,819 for a Penis
Dr. Beccca-Equal Pay Day Epic FAIL
GrrlScientist-Penis Parity Day

And while you are at it, make sure you call your Congress/Senate Critters to make sure they support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is being reintroduced today.

MOAR UPDATE! Even more "Equal" Pay Day posts at Scientopia

Janet Stemwedel-Equal Pay Day: there is power in a union
FCS-Good Hair Day, Fair Pay Day
PLS-Equal Pay Day!

9 responses so far

  • becca says:

    Interesting. I've heard variously that one should argue for more money based only on the truthful position that one is willing to walk away (which I suspect might get women labeled as difficult more than men) and that one should argue simply based on what one is worth *to* the institution (which is what it sounds like you ended up with). Fairness has no role, unless the institution actually thinks it's going to get its pants sued off.

    • gerty-z says:

      The problem was it that it was clear I was really interested in this position. We had already negotiated a lot about startup equipment, space etc. I don't think that anyone would have believed that I was really going to walk away over ~10% of my salary. So I guess I didn't go in with a strong negotiating position.

  • Dr. O says:

    It strikes me, however, that it is overwhelmingly the woman that ends up passing on a career for the good of the family. I can't help but wonder about how society exerts pressures on us that maybe we aren't even aware of.

    This is the part that gets me the most. (Although I can't for the life of me understand how the higher-ups can justify offering women lower salaries to start off with...just WRONG) It's clear to me that society has working women in a chokehold, by not letting men take equal paternity leave, and expecting women with families to not earn as much right from the start. Society needs to get past these obsolete gender expectations, but I have no idea how to make this happen beyond passing laws (like the one you mention at the end of your post!!)

  • WhizBANG! says:

    The Paycheck Fairness Act will close some loopholes that prevent women from collecting data about wages to document systematic discrimination a la Walmart.

    I can't believe that when presented with data on salary discrimination, they didn't agree to your request. I guess they Gould also have walked, though. I mean, for the same money they could have gotten a man.

    • gerty-z says:

      It seems that when I showed the evidence of the wage inequity, my Chair took thought I was calling HIM a sexist. So he was a little defensive. Also, for any one given case that a woman makes less than a man there is a "reasonable explanation". Not to mention that ALL of the other women than have been hired in the last 10 years were in other departments, so the Chair claimed it was not a problem HERE (umm...). Anywho, it was very frustrating.

      clearly we have some work to do.

      Thanks for stopping by, for getting me started on this, and for the links that got me reading about the Paycheck Fairness act. I have been twittering about it with my Senator today!

  • [...] WTF?! "Equal" Pay Day Equal Pay Day $16,819 for a Penis Penis Parity Day Good Hair Day, Fair Pay Day [...]

  • Dr. IA says:

    Just found your blog and thought I would chime in. I was hired into my department at the same time as two men. Like you, I researched the salaries extensively and requested a reasonable amount... I even asked three times like a good used car sales person.

    In the end I did not get the salary I wanted but accepted the salary I was offered because it came with the empathic message that it was the most they could possibly pay. The two men were give salaries of 5% higher. We all have the same experience level... WTF???

    Salt in the wound, this year the dean and provost reviewed salary data for systematic inequities and made appropriate changes... no change for me.

    There are two TT women in the college; we make the same amount. The dozen or so men all make more. As a point of reference, a $5k salary gap over 30 years at a 3% raise per year is worth almost a quarter of a million dollars.

    It may not seem like much now but it adds up.

    I am considering exiting academia. It seems to be the last bastion hold out where gender bias is an accepted norm. Initially, I thought that it was my mandate to be an agent of change. This was born out of a sense of responsibility I feel to pay forward the wonderful mentoring I received. Recently I have been pondering the notion of risk versus self sacrifice and have realized that my current circumstance fall in the latter category. No one should sacrifice themself for their career.

    • gerty-z says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Dr. IA. I can definitely see how gender bias can be...frustrating at the very least. But I don't know if academia is really the last bastion of gender bias, especially when it comes to equal pay. Equal Pay Day is not just for academics, it reflects the difference in pay that the average woman gets relative to the average man. Unfortunately, in our society now the idea of gender equality is just fiction.

      • Dr. IA says:

        Yes, you are absolutely right about the equal pay part.

        I view academia being the last bastion of gender bias (in the US) was in the sense of entrenched fortification. The arbitrariness of tenure ensures that the young professors fear being labeled low on the collegiality scale for speaking out. Tenure itself means there is little inflow of new bodies (= few new perspectives), the seniors remain until they retire.

        The only thing I can liken it to is the rarefied air of the Fortune 500 senior executives. But there the media at least has begun to take interest.

        I digress with this kvecthing. What can be done about this that is constructive? I have some ideas but they revolve around alternates to the current higher education structure.

        Cheers and thanks for the blog!

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