You Can Help Close The Gender Wage Gap Each & Every Day
Equal Pay Day is on Tuesday, April 4, and it's an occasion to raise awareness about the battle for women to be paid equally to men for the same work. And whether you're a woman or not, it's definitely worth your attention ― solidarity and commitment to fighting for women's equality, simply put, is incredibly important right now. So, in that spirit, there are lots of ways you can help close the gender wage gap, even if you don't think of yourself as having the power or influence to do so.
It's a huge challenge, after all. In America, polarized as it is, all sides can't even agree on the basic existence of the wage gap, let alone its causes or how to solve the problem in the first place. But there are indeed some pretty simple steps you can take to help advance the issue in the public sphere, the political process, and in your own life. When it comes down to it, it takes way more than just the activism or advocacy of one person to make a difference. And that's even true for people of relative power and privilege. Since power is in numbers, here are seven little ways everyone can go about fighting to close the pay gap.
1. Get Engaged In Political Activism
If you're never gotten involved in activism or protests before, it can sound daunting in the extreme. But it's one of the basic, essential ways citizens have to address grievances to their government, or to make a statement as a coalition to their fellow citizens. And luckily, you've got a prime, convenient opportunity coming up ― there are sure to be plenty of protests and demonstrations on Equal Pay Day.
2. Know The Law & The Statute Of Limitations
In the event you or someone you know has suffered pay discrimination due to their gender, it's important that you be aware of what your rights are. Obviously, not everyone has the ability to actually bring legal action under such circumstances, but if that's on the table, the very first bill former president Barack Obama signed into law might be relevant ― the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act allows a worker to sue an employer for wage discrimination up to 180 days after the last paycheck impacted by said discrimination.
In other words, even it's been six months since the last paycheck, a lawsuit can still be filed. And even if you assume you'll never have reason to sue, knowing the law and your rights is crucial to impacting the system. Like they say, knowledge is power.
3. Call Your Elected Representatives Every Single Day
If you're looking for a simple way to put pressure on the political system ― which actually has the power to make new laws to mitigate the wage gap ― calling your elected representatives is a must, and could even be done on a daily basis. The collapse of the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill was nothing if not a testament to the power of this kind of public pressure, and you can do the same to help with the wage gap.
4. Show Solidarity In The Workplace
This one is for the men out there. If you're working alongside women in the same job with the same levels of training and experience as yourself, and you find out they're being paid less than you are, that's something you might want to talk to them about. Obviously, not everyone is comfortable talking about their income, so exercise some judgment in starting that kind of a conversation.
But if you have reason to think it'll be well-received, it's good to show that you're invested in helping the women around you be paid fairly, rather than benefiting by way of the wage gap. It's empowering and important knowledge, so don't just keep it to yourself.
5. Call Out Institutional Sexism Whenever You See It
There are a lot of reasons the wage gap exists. Conservative critics will often insist the whole thing is overblown. But even studies that try to account for different levels of workplace training, education, and experience have found that there is indeed a gap, albeit a smaller one than that oft-cited 77 percent figure.
But the situations that factor into all of those excuses ― what careers women more commonly enter, for example, or absence from the workforce due to having a child ― are actually themselves influenced by sexist and patriarchal cultural attitudes. So, say it loud and say it proud: reject sexism in all its forms, because women can be and do whatever they aspire to.
6. Remember That The Wage Gap Is Intersectional
If you're trying to help remedy the wage gap through any of these methods, there's an important piece of additional information you should recognize, and apply to your activism — namely, the fact that the wage gap isn't equivalent for all women. Rather, white women dramatically out-earn Latina women, Native American women, and black women, and that deserves to be highlighted in any conversation about fixing it.
Make no mistake, closing the wage gap for white women alone wouldn't fix circumstances for black or Latina women. And in a way, that fact is actually useful in demonstrating to people that yes, this is a problem about discrimination. It's not all just about training, or career fields, or some sort of happenstance. It's about sexism, yes, and racism too.
7. Organize Your Friends & Family To Join The Cause
No movement rises or falls on the strength of just one person. Rather, it takes coalition-building, organizing, commitment, and teamwork to get things done. If you're planning to join a protest on Equal Pay Day, bring a friend. If you're planning to call your representative, get in touch with any family members who live in Republican-represented states and see if they're able to do the same. In short, every single additional voice can only help.