BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Gambling With Our Wages

Posted by espressodog on April 20, 2010

Another post from guest blogger and intern extraordinaire Tal Schapira.Blog for Fair Pay 2010

Whenever the lottery is extremely high, I drive over to the supermarket and fill out a ticket. On the drive home, I invariably fantasize about how I would spend the money if I actually won.  Half always goes to my parents, who would then apportion some for my two sisters.  Another percentage is allocated to pay off student loans, a little bit is used toward a shopping spree, and a portion is tucked aside for my future.  By then I am home (the grocery store is minutes from my house) and I lose interest in the dream.  Fantasizing any longer is futile as the lottery is purely a matter of chance.

I will probably never win the actual lottery, but I do have a say in winning the metaphorical lottery that is “equal pay.”  With the current wage gap in the United States, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by there male counterparts.  This amounts to life-time losses between $700,000 and $2 million in female income.  Who needs the lotto then!   

Overall, nearly a third of the gender pay gap 27.4 cents can be explained by differences in occupations, 21.9 cents can be explained by industry, and 10.5 cents can be explained by labor force experience.  Almost half the wage gap (41.2 cents), then, is not accounted for. This unexplained wage gap is a result of workplace discrimination in the workplace.

One study conducted by the AAUW found that holding other patterns constant, such as working hours and time off, female graduates working full time made 80 percent of what male graduates earn just twelve months out of college.[i]   While another study conducted by Cornell University sociologists found that employers perceive mother’s as “less competent, less promotable, less likely to be recommended for management, and less likely to be recommended for hire.” Consequently, mother’s experience lower starting salaries than non-mothers.[ii]

One piece of legislation that deals with pay equity is awaiting Senate action-   

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act (S.182) would take meaningful steps to empower women to negotiate for equal pay, create incentives for employers to follow the law and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts.

We have the power to eliminate the wage gap.  We can change societal perceptions of occupational segregation and we can lobby our Senators to support fair pay legislation.  Pay equity will be achieved when the ratio of full time, year round women’s pay to full time, year round men’s pay is 100%. We don’t have to play the lottery with our wages- we are entitled to “Equal Pay for Equal Work” and have the capacity to make this a reality.


[i] Judy Goldberg Dey and Catherine Hill, “Behind the Pay Gap,” April 2007, American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, http://www.aauw.org/research/upload/behindPayGap.pdf

[ii] Center for American Progress Action Fund, Testimony of Heather Boushey, Senior Economist , Center for American Progress Action Fund , Strengthening the Middle Class: Ensuring Equal Pay for Women, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, United States Senate, Washington: March 11, 2010, http://help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Boushey.pdf

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