This year on March 31, we celebrate Equal Pay Day, an annual event that raises awareness of the fact that women in America still aren't paid fairly as compared to men's earnings. It's a day when people all over the country can take a moment to recognize longstanding inequities, rooted in sexism and discrimination, and work to create a world that's more fair and equal. And that's a cause that you can be a part of too: in particular, there are several small but important ways to support Equal Pay Day, and do your part to make the world around you just a little bit better.
Make no mistake, the wage gap is real, despite longstanding attempts by some conservative critics to argue otherwise. It's true that the oft-cited claim that women make just 81 cents for every dollar a man makes doesn't account for other factors — like education or choice of profession — but there's no denying that a gap unexplained by those factors does exist.
It's also true that the jobs women work, and the roles they assume in society, are not isolated from institutional sexism. In addition to being penalized for having children, women are asked or assumed to fulfill family caretaker roles free of charge — all while the U.S. offers zero mandated weeks of maternity leave. These factors are part of the equal pay conversation too.
In short, there are a lot of angles to come at the problem from, and that means there are a lot of options for you to help make a difference, however small. Here are 11 ways to support Equal Pay Day you might want to consider:
1. Support Women-Owned Businesses
If you live in a community with any local businesses that are independently owned and/or founded by women, and especially if they're staffed by women, Equal Pay Day is a good time to use your buying power at those shops. It may not move the needle in terms of combating systemic sexism or inequality, but it will send a message of awareness and consideration on an important day.
If you don't know where to start or how to find women-owned businesses, WomenOwnedLogo.com has a great directory that lets you search for women-owned businesses by category. Additionally, Yelp rolled out a "women-owned" search filter in February 2020 that helps you find women-owned businesses in your area.
2. Join An Equal Pay Protest (When Social Distancing Ends)
Though you may not be able to find an equal pay day protest on March 31 due to social distancing, you don't have to give up on protesting for the cause entirely. Get involved in protests after social distancing guidelines have been retracted by searching for upcoming events on Facebook. Or if you don't want to wait, start a virtual protest by sharing your thoughts about the wage gap online and encouraging friends to do the same. Start a hashtag and get it trending! You can still make a difference from the comfort (and safety) of your own home.
3. Call Your Member Of Congress About Equal Pay
If anything was proven by the failure of the GOP's Obamacare replacement effort (popularly known as the American Health Care Act), it's that public pressure on members of Congress works. So if you want to send a message to the halls of power in Washington, make sure you take a moment to call the state or district offices of your elected representatives and demand they come out in loud public support of equal pay. You can find the House of Representatives phone directory here, and one for the U.S. Senate here. Just remember: be polite, but very firm and very clear.
4. Mark The Date Of Your Next Congressional Town Hall
Similarly, if you're hoping to get some face time with your member of Congress, check to see when their next district town hall is. Find out when and where your next town hall will be by using the Town Hall Project, a site that lets you search for upcoming town halls through zip code or district and even receive email updates on local events. You might find that there won't be one for a while, considering the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn't mean you can't mark your calendar for the future. After the pandemic ends, it might be time to get on the phone and ask them to schedule one.
5. Talk To Your Loved Ones About Equal Pay
It's important to have open dialogue with the people closest to you about the causes that matter, because nobody should have to go it alone. On top of that, it's exhausting to feel misunderstood or unsupported by the people you care about most. So if there's someone close to you who doesn't know that you have an interest in politics, or you sense hasn't thought deeply about equal pay issues, make some time to have a conversation with them, and urge them to take a few minutes to do their part, too.
6. Talk To Someone With Problematic Views, Too
I know, I know, who wants to do this, right? Obviously, exercise your own best judgment ― if you know somebody who's super-hostile to women's rights or feminist issues, there's no guarantee that it'll help to talk to them. However, if you've encountered someone who seems like they have a good heart but has internalized some problematic attitudes, or maybe someone who's fallen for some of the fallacious arguments about why the pay gap doesn't exist or doesn't matter, you might do some good by having a respectful, serious-minded conversation.
Plus, with all the free time you probably have inside now, why not use it to spread the word? If you want to use hard data to back up your points, use statistics from the United State of Women or the National Committee on Pay Equity. There are plenty of resources out there to help you argue that the pay gap does in fact exist.
7. Share Your Own Equal Pay Story Online
Facts and figures are super important in arguments, but personal anecdotes can get a message across as well. Tell your story online by using your social media platforms. And if you're currently dealing with unequal pay at your workplace, you may have options. In an article about what to do if you're being paid less because of your gender, TIME suggests actions including negotiating with your boss, quitting your job, and even getting an employment lawyer involved if you can.
8. Support Equal Pay While Giving Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Workout A Try
If you're a fan of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, physical fitness, and you believe women deserve equal pay, here's the event for you: a series of Equal Pay Day speeches, followed by a communal attempt at handling RBG's notoriously grueling workout regimen. This was an actual event that took place in the Chicago area in 2017, but you can recreate it right in your own home today. There are plenty of inspiring "equal pay" speeches online, including that of Michelle Williams and Patricia Arquette. And once you've finished getting pumped up, make good use of that energy by trying out RBG's workout at home.
9. Support Paid Time Off For Pregnancy & Paternity
One of the things that results in women bringing in less money than men is work interruptions due to pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave. So, if you're looking to champion a particular cause, whether in protest or in direct engagement with your elected officials, legally mandating paid time off for pregnancy and for paternity leave is a great step. And remember, that's paternity leave, not just maternity leave ― letting fathers choose to stay home with their young children benefits women and strikes against patriarchy, too.
If you don't know where to start in your fight for maternity leave, you can begin at home by negotiating paid leave with your boss. Joining organizations that are dedicated to this fight like Moms Rising and Paid Leave is also a fantastic option.
10. Let Ivanka Trump Know You Haven't Forgotten Her Equal Pay Promises
One of President Trump's most effective surrogates during the 2016 campaign was his own daughter Ivanka, who gave a speech at the Republican National Convention calling, in part, for equal pay. Call, email, and do whatever you can to communicate a loud message: that you haven't forgotten, and that her credibility and reputation is on the line, too. If you want to go beyond calling, feel free to try the social media route. Tag her on Twitter and encourage your friends to do the same. Be firm and demanding, but respectful.
11. Get Friends To Join Your Equal Pay Day Efforts
Remember, none of these goals can be reached alone. Whether you're headed to a protest later in the year, calling up members of Congress, or trying to make an impact with where you spend your money, spread the word. And if you're trying to make an impression on your elected representatives, the more people the better. Plus, it's more fun to have sympathetic friends along for the ride, right?
Syeda Saad contributed to this article.
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