Not long ago, employment attorney Richard Tuschman of EpsteinBeckerGreen came to visit me at The Miami Herald building. He wanted to enlighten me about the wage gap between what men and women earn. He insisted it isn't as bad as the numbers indicate because women tend to take jobs in lower paying professions, which is why as a group, they earn less than men.
That may be true. However, the National Partnership for Women & Families issued a new report today with some pretty horrifying numbers.
The report, broken down state by state, says that without the gender-based wage gap, Florida’s women and their families could afford food for another 1.4 years, mortgage and utility payments for five more months, or family health insurance premiums for 1.8 more years. That’s because full-time employed women in the state are paid $32,506 per year, compared to $40,672 for men.
The report was issued in conjunction with Equal Pay Day which is April 20 this year. It is designed to shine a spotlight on the fact that women must work for nearly four extra months in 2010 for wages equal to what men were paid in 2009 alone.
National Partnership President Debra L. Ness is urging the Senate to use this report's findings as the catalyst to push through the The Paycheck Fairness Act. She believes the Act would make it harder for employers to justify wage discrimination; prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages; authorize the government to collect wage data so civil rights enforcement agencies can target their resources; and offer employers technical assistance to help them analyze their pay data and make sure they are not discriminating.
I do believe Tuschman's argument carries weight. I do think women tend to choose professions that pay less. But why can't those professions pay more? I also believe there are many workplaces where men are paid more for doing the same job as women and frankly, those women may even be doing the job better. In some cases, it may be an oversight by the employer. Let's make it okay for companies to get help analyzing their pay data. Let's make it against the law to discriminate based on gender.
What do we have to lose by paying women equal salaries? If entire households benefit, it looks like all of us have a lot to gain.