President Obama’s January 29th wage gap announcement outlining new rules that will require businesses of over 100 employees to report to the Federal Government how much is paid to their employees based on gender, race and ethnicity is another baby step towards equal pay.
When you think about it, the President’s announcement is both encouraging and discouraging.
It’s encouraging in several ways:
- At a time when Congress isn’t completely convinced that equal pay is an issue, the President is acknowledging that in fact it is.
- By bringing this matter up in a public forum, the President is ensuring that the matter remains at the forefront of the conversation.
- The timing of the announcement will keep equal pay an active issue that could carry over into election year rhetoric and ultimately spark new ways of thinking about a lingering problem.
- The announcement also builds a strong case by providing concrete information about the seriousness of the problem and the impact it has on our overall economy.
It’s discouraging because:
- It’s one more baby step in a very long road that started the minute women expanded their workforce role beyond teaching and midwifery.
- It’s yet another government regulation forcing organizations to report private information which may be viewed as invasive and could cause resentment in the workforce.
- It doesn’t encourage people and organizations to think beyond government regulations to fix the problem.
Keeping the Issue Alive
Advocacy groups around the country have spent an exhaustive amount of time convincing men that equal pay is still a problem. This is a difficult sell in the face of low unemployment rates. But what’s behind those numbers? Here’s a reality check.
While still recovering from a devastating recession, the U.S. unemployment rate is somewhere in the 5% range, which is considered “full employment” . . . if you don’t consider a couple of facts.
First, many people have dropped out of the workforce altogether and therefore, aren’t included in the unemployment number.
Second, some workers are underemployed. Technically, since they have a job, they are counted as “employed” which reduces the unemployment rate.
These factors amount to a population of underpaid, struggling employees who can’t afford to spend money and stimulate the economy. If we strive for equal pay, it would actually speed up our economic recovery and while improving the lives of our country’s 10+ million single-mothers and their households.
Someone’s Getting It RightLet’s take an example from the German government. Germany has experienced a recent increase in its female employment rate to 73% resulting in a 9% uptick in its overall employment rate. This increase is attributed to their training programs that are designed to put women to work in a wide range of jobs.
Meanwhile, the most innovative country in the world, the U.S., cannot figure out how to correct a problem that plays a role in slowing its economic recovery and directly affects its citizens’ way of life – equal pay for equal work!
As we progress through this election year, let’s keep this issue at the forefront of the conversation by leading the discussion whenever possible because it makes good sense for women and for our economy.