Saturday, August 26, 2006

Today is women’s equality day!

August 26, 1920, after 72 years of lobbying and protest, women finally won the right to vote in the United States. In 1971, the late, great Rep. Bella Abzug convinced Congress to designate Aug. 26 as Women's Equality Day. Women's lives have changed dramatically since 1920. But, we still have a long way to go.

Until women earn the same wages as men . . . until reproductive justice is assured . . . until racism and sexism and violence are eradicated . . . until lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender people have equal rights . . . until women are included in the U.S. Constitution . . . women's equality will not be realized.

The following article was written by Kathy Black, VP of Phila NOW and President of Phila. Chapter of Coalition of labor union Women on the continuing pay gap:

Despite women’s educational advancements, our record numbers in the professions, and federal prohibitions against wage discrimination, pay equity remains a distant goal. Last year women’s full time median earnings were 77% of men’s median earnings. For minority women, the gap is even greater. Over a lifetime, this disparity costs women workers $700,000 to $2,000,000.

Part of this gap is explained by differences in experience, education or time in the workforce. But pay differentials also persist because women and people of color predominate in historically undervalued jobs, like clerical, nursing and teaching. Using a standard job evaluation system, the state of Minnesota found “women’s jobs” paid 20% less than male-dominated jobs, even when they scored equally. Wages were increased over four years to eliminate discrimination without breaking the state budget. Many states and businesses have made similar adjustments.

The market is not immune to bias, and it has failed to provide pay equity in the 40 years since the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts became law. We need more employers to use sex and race-neutral criteria to set wages, and Congress must adopt The Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act, for better enforcement of wage discrimination violations. Establishing pay equity would lift thousands of women, many sole supporters of families, out of poverty, provide a secure retirement and reduce public assistance costs. Our entire economy and society will benefit when women become true equals in the workplace.

Kathy Black, President
Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

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