Our guest blogger today is Danielle Eisner, a small business owner in South Carolina and a member of BPW/Breakfast of Spartanburg, SC. This blog is adapted from a speech she gave March 24, 2012 for the BPW/South Carolina Young Careerist competition. We congratulate Danielle on being selected South Carolina’s 2012 Young Careerist.
Equal Pay For All
My name is Danielle Eisner and I own a wedding venue in Spartanburg, SC. Business has been good, so I would like to hire ALL of you ladies out there to help me work the wedding events. Champagne and wedding cake for everyone! BUT, since I am blonde and rumor has it that blondes have more fun, I am going to pay my blonde employees more than my brunette employees. Now, now brunettes, I don’t care how many weddings you’ve attended in the past, or if you were the life of the party in college – in my mind, none of that qualifies you to earn as much as the blondes. And since I’m the owner of the business, I can make the rules and pay y’all whatever I want, even if you’re doing the exact same job.
Well, it is ridiculous. It is ridiculous that two people can be paid different wages for the same work. And gender or race (or hair color) most certainly should not determine a person’s salary. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform the same work. Back then, women earned 59 cents to every dollar earned by men. In 2009, the gap narrowed to 77%. I suppose we should be thrilled with our “raise”, earning 77 cents to every dollar a man makes in the same job. But the fact is women are still being discriminated against in the workplace. And the wage gap is even greater for minorities, with African American women earning 69% of men and Latina women earning only 59% of men in the workplace.
SO, how do we change this? Education is the number one tool we have in this fight against pay discrimination against women and minorities. We need to make everyone aware about pay inequity – women AND men, business owners, managers AND workers. The more we talk about the issue, the more support and momentum we can gain, and hopefully we can forge some REAL change, both legislatively and in actual business practices.
We all took a first step by joining a women-focused professional organization. Business and Professional Women’s Foundation empowers working women to achieve their full potential, and creates Successful Workplaces which value the skills of working women and practice work/life balance, equity and diversity. By introducing new women to BPW, we can educate and empower other women in the workforce.
We need to encourage every working woman (and sympathetic man) we know to contact our local legislators to tell them how important equal pay is to us. We should ask them to sign a Fair Pay Pledge, indicating that they will support pay equality legislation (including the Paycheck Fairness Act) and they will ensure pay equity practices in their own businesses.
We should support and encourage participation in local activities on Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day was started in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. This year Equal Pay Day was Tuesday, April 17. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay, and April 17th symbolized how far into 2012 women needed to work to earn what men earned in 2011. Equal Pay Day events are used to educate the community that Equal Pay isn’t just a “women’s issue”, but it’s a “business issue” too and the pay disparities effects the economic stability of the entire community.
On behalf of BPW, let’s bring “The Wage Project” workshops to our local community. Did you know that year out of college; women working full-time earn only 80% as much as their male colleagues? That wage gap will only increase, and that girl has the potential to earn roughly 1 million dollars less than a man over the course of her career. Smart Campus Negotiation Workshops provide college women the knowledge and skills to negotiate salaries and benefits. The Wage Project also offers salary negotiation workshops for working women and women returning to the workforce.
Lastly, we should each encourage our OWN places of employment to do a Workplace Pay Audit to discover if discrimination is happening in our own backyard. Let’s try to make some real changes at the local level. Employers play a major role in ending the wage gap and treating women fairly in the workplace. BPW has an Employer Pay Equity Self-Audit tool on its website to help businesses do a self-evaluation of their recruitment and promotion processes, and to help establish consistent and fair pay practices for all workers.
Achieving pay equity is within our reach. Together, we can educate the public and with more voices we can make a difference.