April 14 was National Equal Pay Day. Seton Hill University (SHU) students formed a rally and gathered at the Westmoreland County Courthouse to protest the wage gap.
While Equal Pay Day is held on April 14 to symbolize the 74 extra work days a woman must work to earn the same as a man, this only applies to white women. Asian women must work an extra 68 days, African American women must work an extra 149 days, Native American women must work an extra 179 days and Latina women must work an extra 201 days.
Blackburn Center Education Team member Deanna Ferry spoke at the event, discussing how the pay gap differs among genders, and is affected by race and educational background. According to Ferry, the pay gap can also contribute to domestic violence by not allowing women to earn enough money to be able to leave abusive households.
“An argument I hear from some people is, ‘Well women and men usually start out with the same salaries.’ That may be true but over time the wage gap tends to develop due to factors such as unfair scheduling practices, the lack of paid family and medical leave insurance programs, and also women often not being granted higher positions in their paid workforce,” said Holly Reid, president of the SHU Feminist Collective.
The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, but a pay gap between men and women still exists. When the law was passed, women were paid around 59 percent of what men were paid. Today, that number has increased to 78 percent, or $10,876 less per year in median earnings. If the pay gap continues to decline at this rate, it will take 45 years for women and men to receive equal pay.
The odds are worse for women who are not white. African American women typically make 64 cents to a white man’s dollar. Latina women make only 56 cents to a white man’s dollar.
The pay gap is affected by other factors as well. Lesbian women have a median income of $38,000, compared to $47,000 for men in same-sex couples and $48,000 for heterosexual men. Women with disabilities who work full time are typically paid 69.5 percent of what men without disabilities are paid and 80.8 percent of what males with disabilities are paid.
“To end the pay gap, we need to investigate employers to see what their pay practices are and then challenge employers to make those practices fair. We can also work to make sure that women are not passed up for promotion but are given the same opportunities as men for advancement to higher paying jobs,” said David von Schlichten, a SHU professor who teaches the course Theories Gender and Women Studies.
“Equal work deserves equal pay,” said Reid. “It’s really that simple. If a woman is doing the same job as a man, then she deserves to be paid the same. If a black woman is doing the same work as a white woman, she should be paid the same. If a woman with a disability is doing the same work as an abled woman, she deserves to be paid the same…and the list goes on!”
Around 80 members of the SHU community showed up for the rally, carrying signs supporting pay equity.
“I was very pleased with the amount of students that showed up for the rally. There was a lot of energy and excitement amongst the group of students that marched down to the courthouse, and I think we got the people of Greensburg excited about equal pay as well,” said Kelly Hollis, treasurer for the SHU Feminist Collective. “All in all I would call it a successful event!”
For more information on pay equity and how you can help, visit the National Committee on Pay Equity website.