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Women's Wages: Progress and Shortfalls

By Magdalene MichalikNEWS EDITOR

Women are still being paid less than men, even on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964-- — an act which banned the discrimination of race, religion, gender and national origin in the workforce.

Tuesday marked National Equal Pay Day, and various organizations on campus sponsored an event to spotlight the progress and achievements of women in the workforce. The event also expressed that there is room for more progress in terms of reducing the gender wage gap.

“This particular day focuses on the gaps that we haven’t caught up with yet and is a reminder that pay discrimination is a lingering source of gender inequality,” Professor Joanna Grossman said. “Nobody says that it doesn’t exist.”

The event, titled “Women’s Economic Prospects in 2014: 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act,” was presented by the Hofstra Labor Studies Program and co-sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program, Hofstra Cultural Center, Women of Action, and the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal.

The event featured speakers Grossman, professor from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, and Linda Gatsby, vice president of Scholastic Inc. Margaret Abraham, professor of sociology and Special Advisor to the Provost for Diversity Initiatives, was the moderator for the event.

National Equal Pay Day began in 1996 and was started by the National Committee on Pay Equity to bring public awareness to the wage gap between men and women. The nationwide event emphasizes the challenges women face and their opportunities in today’s workplace.

Women contribute to more than half of the workforce and still face an enormous gender gap, making 70 to 80 cents on the dollar to men, according to Grossman. As those cents get multiplied by the hour, women end up making 18 percent less than men in an average paycheck and 38 percent less than men over the course of their lifetime.

“I thought these issues were history and I didn’t really think that they are still relevant in modern times,” said Curtis Andrews, a sophomore English major.

According to Grossman, wage gaps differ from other types of discrimination because individuals don’t know it has occurred due to the strong normality in American business of pay secrecy. Discussing pay with one another is considered a social taboo, so the discrepancy is often unknown.

“You’re not going to be very popular when you start a job and walk around to each office asking how much each person gets paid,” Grossman said. “People just don’t talk about their pay and employers have rules forbidding the disclosure of pay.”

To try to avoid these types of situations in the future, one of the main goals of Equal Pay Day is to enforce the idea that students can make a change by joining organizations to be part of the equal pay fight.

“Pay attention to the legislative action that is taking place on the federal, state and municipal levels because there are definitely efforts to combat these problems and it’s important that you stay educated on these issues,” Gatsby said.

The most current legislation pertaining to these issues reside in the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Fair Pay act on the federal level and the Women’s Equality Act in New York. Most recently, the Senate has again rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act on Wednesday.

Gatsby encouraged Hofstra students to pay attention to these legislations. More specifically, Gatsby said that women should not give up. Many of the most profitable division executives at Scholastic are women, according to Gatsby, and Scholastic is not unique in this respect.

“We are our sisters’ keepers,” Gatsby said. “We will rise and fall together. It is important that you support each other now, through grad school, and in careers and it is also important to reach back.”

Women can do this by knowing the law and then initiating and being proactive about bringing about that change. In addition, according to Abraham, it is important to make a change through a personal narrative. It can make a difference in the workplace and eventually have an effect on the national community.

“You need to challenge the hierarchies, be proactive in terms of legislation and passion, and remember that the personal is the political,” Abraham said.

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