Earlier this week, I read an Associated Press story about how more women than men have been earning advanced degrees and yet women continue to earn less for their labor.
It’s an old story. And old stories often bore us. Also, old stories seem by their very familiarity to describe what is "normal."
There is so little agitation today on the part of women in the workplace. Perhaps that’s because for decades women have been focusing on becoming qualified and proving their abilities. Perhaps it is because of the insecurity caused by the Great Recession. Whatever it is, we’re still not equal when it comes to take-home pay.
As I read the news story, I was filled with a mix of anger, discouragement and frustration. Why is it so very difficult to do the decent thing and pay workers equally for equal work? What is so difficult about that?
In the old days – back in the 1960s and 1970s – women were told we didn’t have the credentials. We didn’t have the college degrees.
Eager to prove our worth, we went to college and earned degrees – bachelors, masters and PhDs.
And as most ambitious women know, we often worked harder and longer than our male counterparts to get career doors to open even just a crack, and let us through.
But still, well into the twenty-first century, we’re earning significantly less despite our credentials and efforts.
According to the AP story, women with full-time jobs now earn about 80.2 percent of what men earn.
In the Great Recession, more men are unemployed because of the hard hit construction and manufacturing industries.
According to the AP story, women now represent a majority of the nation’s workforce, but continue to earn 80 cents for each dollar earned by men. Some studies say most women earn about 77 cents for each dollar earned by most men.
Although some may say it’s because women choose to work in lower paying fields, or because women interrupt their careers to care for their families, such explanations have the same hollow ring that "you don’t have the right credentials" had back in the old days. Shallow excuses ignore or try to cover up the ugly fact.
It turns out that women earned less than men in all 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the Census Bureau in 2007, even in fields where their numbers were overwhelming.
For example, female secretaries, earn 83.4 percent as much as male secretaries. And female truck drivers earn less than male truck drivers. And so on and so on.
Discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal. Nonetheless, such discrimination is alive and well in the American workplace.
According to our ideals, it is very UN-American.
But according to our workplace practices, it’s so common it almost feels "normal."