By Maxine R. Haggerty
Members of The American Association of University Women in Utah appreciate the coverage that The Salt Lake Tribune continues to give the pay gap between women and men. For more than 130 years, AAUW has advocated for gender equity in education and the workplace and is well-known and widely trusted for research reports it sponsors on issues affecting women and girls.
One of its recent reports available to download at aauw.org is "Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One year after College Graduation" (2012).
Most people are aware of the pay gap, but they may not realize that one year after a woman graduates from college she is financially behind on national average paid 82 percent of what her male peer is paid (2009 data). U.S. women working full time earned $35,296 on average, while men working full time earned $42,918.
Utah working women overall are paid on average 70 percent of what male workers are paid. Women working full time earned $34,062 on average, while men working full time earned $48,540.
Using regression analysis and controlling the data for hours, occupation, college major, employment sector, and other cultural factors associated with pay, the Graduating to a Pay Gap report states that the pay gap shrinks but does not disappear.
"College-educated women working full time were paid an unexplained 7 percent less than their male peers were paid one year out of college." Over a full-time working lifetime, college-educated women earn $500,000 less than their male peers.
Gender discrimination is often blamed, but the report fairly points out other possible causes for the pay gap. "Negotiating a salary can make a difference in earnings, and men are more likely than women to negotiate their salaries." To help women overcome this reticence, AAUW has cooperated with the WAGE Project to bring "$tart $mart" workshops to college and university campuses to train women how to negotiate their salaries. Plans are underway to hold $tart $mart workshops at the University of Utah during the coming year. (Learn more about $tart $mart at facebook.com/StartSmart-forEqualPay or at aauw.org.)
Through the years AAUW has been a leader among those who have lobbied Congress for laws to protect equal employment and pay for women and has been at the president's side when legislation was signed. AAUW led the effort for passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which clarifies when pay discrimination on the job can be legally contested. Because many private employers retaliate against workers who compare wages and salaries, legislation to remedy this practice has been introduced into every Congress since 2005 without becoming law.
The current Paycheck Fairness Act bills (H.R. 377 and S. 84) introduced in January 2013 would amend the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by imposing stiffer penalties against employers who violate the 1963 law and by prohibiting retaliation against sharing salary information. AAUW members throughout the country currently are encouraging everyone to join them in lobbying their congressional delegations to bring these bills to the floor for favorable vote.
In Graduating to a Pay Gap, AAUW states that "Fifty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it is surprising that women continue to be paid less than men are paid, even when they make the same choices."
Equal pay for women matters to everyone. When a woman makes less, her family has less of everything (food, clothing, educational opportunities, health care), it takes her longer to pay off her student loans, and she earns less toward her Social Security and retirement. AAUW works everyday to make pay equity a reality.
Maxine R. Haggerty is the educational opportunities chair and a 40-year member of the Salt Lake City branch of AAUW, one of five AAUW branches in Utah.