Women for over the past 168 years have fought for equality at the political, social and economic level. It is evident that in many ways women have achieved these goals. However, in this election cycle it appears that there is a renewed call to arms on these topics. For many that have fought for equality, this is confusing, insulting and unsubstantiated.
An interesting article at http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/ shows the women’s rights movement started in 1848 by Elizabeth Stanton, a mother of four, and Lucretia Mott, a Quaker abolitionist. Stanton created the, “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions” that stated, among other things, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” This early movement focused on institutional and social barriers such as family responsibilities, lack of educational and economic opportunities, and a desire to be included in the political process.
Seventy years later in 1918, the United States House of Representatives passed a voting rights amendment but it was not approved by the senate until 1919. Finally, on August 26, 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified and became law when Tennessee became the 36th state to support it thus giving women the right to vote. Even though the 14th Amendment addressed citizenship rights and equal protections, it did not specifically give the women a right to vote as the 19th Amendment provides. Of special note, the 15th Amendment created 50 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment prohibited the discrimination of the ability to vote based on race, but did not give a vote to women.
Interestingly, before the passage of the 19th Amendment, a number of states gave women voting rights. Some women could even vote in territories before they became states. Mainly southern states prohibited women from voting. Thirty two states and territories allowed women to vote before the passage of the 19th Amendment. A map provided here shows the breakdown of states that allowed women to vote: http://constitutioncenter.org/timeline/html/cw08_12159.html
Jeannette Rankin was the first women elected to congress in 1916. This is the 100th anniversary of that election although there does not seem to be much fanfare. She was elected to congress before the enactment of the 19th Amendment. Although she had a controversial voting record during her career, this is an outstanding achievement in a state that granted women the right to vote only 2 years prior to her appointment as a congresswomen.
We could go on to describe the other achievements by women elected to congress such as: Patsy Mink in 1964 who became the first woman of color elected to congress, Shirley Chisholm in 1968 became the first African American women elected to congress, and Yvonne Burke, Cardiss Collins, and Barbara Jordan (all African American women) elected to the 93rd Congress (1973-1975) along with 14 male African Americans. However, that is not the focus of this commentary. I am merely providing an historical summary of some of the first achievements of women in politics.
I think it is obvious that the social lives of women in the United States have improved since Elizabeth Stanton’s and Lucretia Mott’s women’s rights movement of 1848. In the 19th century US and before, women’s lives were shaped by their economic class, nationality or race. Not only were women excluded from most jobs, they were prohibited from obtaining an education in order to pursue those jobs. Women could not own land and when they married, their possessions became property of her husband. Today, few would ever think of such a time as we routinely make our purchases. A short but concise accounting of women’s lives in the 19th century US and before is found here: http://womeninushistory.tripod.com/
In today’s society, women in the US not only marry a man of their choice, but are free to marry another women instead. Entire product lines and marketing strategies are devoted to women. Healthcare for women is very specific to their sex as it pertains to Gynecology for women’s health and Obstetrics for maternity needs. Many employers offer paid maternity leave as a fringe benefit. Also, a women may take up to 12 weeks off from work per the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 after each pregnancy.
Not only are women allowed to pursue any degree that they desire in US colleges, they also account for 57% of all those enrolled in college. Women have led in college enrollment since 1979. This outstanding accomplishment shows women’s understanding of how higher education improves their chance of employment and therefore may improve their quality of life. No longer is a women’s lifestyle dependent on how much their companion may earn, but instead on what they may be able to earn themselves. More on college enrollment can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/the-gender-factor-in-college-admissions/2014/03/26/4996e988-b4e6-11e3-8020-b2d790b3c9e1_story.html
Economically, women have prospered in the United States. Since the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it is a violation of federal law for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of sex. Employers in 1963 had to comply with this act immediately. Employers had make their pay equal even if that meant paying existing female employees more than their current salary to be brought up to those of men. More can be found on this federal law here: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/epa.cfm
In this election year, a common political platform being embraced is the gender pay gap. A common quoted figure is that women earn 79% of men’s hourly wage. Depending on your source, you may be able to find the pay gap is actually closer to 92% of the men’s hourly wage. Other sources will show that among millennials, women are making more than men. One approach on this topic is found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/whats-the-real-gender-pay-gap/2016/04/24/314a90ee-08a1-11e6-bdcb-0133da18418d_story.html
I am not a statistician nor do I have access to the data I would need to accurately compile statistics. I would also need a large task force to do individual interviews across the nation. However, I have worked in executive management in large hospitals and developed policies and procedures not only at corporate level, but also for smaller doctor’s groups. I have hired and fired. I have attended seminars and workshops since the 1980s and have been proactive in addressing wage inequalities.
As I have stated in previous posts, I worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years and in college level education for 13 years. I have never seen a policy in any setting that would allow for wage discrimination for any reason, including gender. As a business professional that has networked with other business professionals, the topic of wage discrimination confuses me as I have yet to see institutional wage discrimination let alone a single company attempt such folly.
Hourly employees in hospitals, for example, are paid according to a pay scale. The pay scale gives a pay range for a particular job based on qualifiers such as education, certification and experience.
Example Pay Scale:
Job A pays $7.25 to $10.00 per hour (entry level).
Job B pays $10:01 to $15.00 per hour (supervisor).
Job C pays $15.01 to $20.00 per hour (manager).
…and so on.
Suppose you have the qualifications for Job B and you apply for that position. A human resource professional will check your stated education, certifications, and references showing your experience and interview is scheduled. The interview not only includes a face to face discussion, but many times an employment test is given to identify typing or writing proficiency. Additional tests may be required to demonstrate your math, logic, reasoning, ethics, problem solving or leadership skills. If it is shown that you have at least the bare minimum requirements for the job, you may be called back for a private or group interview that outlines job responsibilities, benefits, expectations, and sometimes pay scale, etc.
Obviously, if you are applying for Job B, the human resource professional and your manager will want to hire you at something below the $15.00 per hour maximum shown above. After all, if the most you can earn in Job B is $15.00 per hour, a new employee is hired at an hourly rate lower than that so the employer can provide an annual pay increase or raise. Annual pay increases based on productivity or goals reached is a big incentive for employees to do well or improve.
Once you are called back for your final interview, an offer is made and you may either accept, reject, or negotiate the hourly rate. If we are using the pay range in Job B shown above, the human resource professional or your hiring manager, based on your qualifications, may offer you the job at $10.50 per hour. Again, you may accept, reject or negotiate that rate. It is sometimes argued that men may be better negotiators when it comes to asking for more pay. If that is true, is that really wage discrimination? Studies have shown that when a women asks for more pay, they get more pay. More on that point is found here: http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/12/pf/gender-pay-gap/
The same is true for salaried employees. Each salaried position has a pay range. If you qualify, apply and are offered that position, again it is up to you to ask for more pay or demonstrate you are worth more. I have never met a manager that would hire a man for more money just because he is a man. Why in the world would they do that? However, it does make sense that the manager would try to hire any employee as far from the top pay in the range provided to allow for pay growth in that position as a performance incentive.
Statistically women may earn less than men. I will err on the side of caution and go with the studies that may show this is true. However, to call this institutional wage discrimination is not fair to employers that, in good faith and in all fairness, have policies and procedures written and followed in accordance with federal, state and local laws to address income inequalities. If anyone can show me even one employer that has a different pay scale for women and men I would be very interested to see it. It is illegal. It can be reported to, and prosecuted by, the federal government.
It is insulting to allow a presidential candidate to run on a platform of wage discrimination reform and convince voters there is a problem that only he/she can address. Each one of us can be watchful and report those employers that we suspect are paying men more than women for that same job. It does not cost you a dime to report them and the employer can take no action against you for doing so. I for one will be the first at the picket line in front of any employer’s business that is shown to have a different pay scale for women and men.
It is an insult to ignore the efforts of both men and women of the past 168 years that have fought for and achieved equality for women. It is also malicious and unfair. Specifically, it has been 53 years since legislation has been passed to ensure the fairness of wages. The war has already been fought and won. Perhaps we need to look at other factors causing a wage imbalance other than a fictitious institutional policy of wage discrimination.