The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 17, 2013

Our View: Equal pay is still a struggle

The Free Press

— Women may not be pigeonholed anymore to work mostly as teachers, nurses and secretaries as they were years ago when it comes to choosing a job, but their wages aren’t making the strides they should. In fact, wages for women have regressed.

In 2012, women working full time earned 80.9 percent of what men earned in terms of weekly pay — a drop from 82.2 percent in 2011, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research study.

And the hardship of the recession has been harder on women. One of the  researchers said the disappearance of middle-wage jobs has been a particular blow to women because those are the jobs they often hold. Women held a disproportionate number of public-sector jobs that haven’t come back.

Although the study didn’t compare men and women’s earnings in comparable jobs or life choices, it wasn’t until 2009 that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act was signed. The law ensures women can effectively challenge pay discrimination.

 Lilly Ledbetter, who speaks at Minnesota State University March 26, had worked for 19 years as a manager at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. before she received an anonymous tip she wasn’t receiving the same pay as men in her position. She filed suit and her sex discrimination case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which denied her relief because the suit was not filed 180 days from her first unequal paycheck. (Because everyone at six months on the job investigates their pay compared to colleagues, right?)

So even though today women are capable of doing what was once thought of as men’s work, it’s still a struggle to get fair pay for that work. It’s bad enough that women who are assertive in the workplace often are seen as pushy; they shouldn’t also have to take less pay for doing demanding work. And it’s no surprise that women are still underrepresented in the best-paid jobs, according to one of the new study’s researchers.

It’s up to employers to make sure their employees are treated fairly and it’s up to regulatory agencies to make sure employers are following employment rules and fair practices.

In a work world that for many people these days is unstable, women shouldn’t also have to wonder whether they are getting the same rate of pay as the man doing the same work a desk away.