Mad Men, Working Women and Fair Pay

by Patricia Shiu on January 29, 2014 · 2 comments

President Obama demonstrated his commitment to equal pay with the first bill he signed as president: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on Jan. 29, 2009. In his State of the Union address five years later, President Obama again made a forceful argument for equal pay.

“Today, women make up about half our workforce,” he said. “But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. … It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

Lilly Ledbetter went for years without knowing she was the victim of pay discrimination. Unfortunately, her experience is all too common. So, at the Labor Department we are working to make it easier for women to learn about the pay gap and to take action to protect their rights. We’ve developed several tools to help women ensure that they’re receiving fair wages, such as the web and Smartphone apps developed in our 2012 Equal Pay App Challenge.

We’re also working very hard to make sure that employers abide by the law when it comes to paying their workers fairly. At the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, while conducting audits we regularly collect and analyze data about how workers are being paid in order to find the “hidden discrimination” that they – like Ledbetter – don’t know about. Over the last four years, we have built up a pretty impressive record of fighting pay discrimination and winning, and winning and winning some more. I believe that trend will continue as we go forward.

Before I joined the Obama administration, I spent 26 years representing workers who had been affected by discrimination. And one thing I am sure of is that the best way to ensure equal pay is for workers to take an active role – to be their own best advocates.

With that in mind, here are three things every woman, and man, can do to mind the (pay) gap:

  1. Know your worth. Do your research, be aware of company and industry pay trends and don’t be afraid to negotiate for the salary and benefits you deserve.
  1. Know your rights. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 are three key laws designed to eliminate pay discrimination. Learn what those laws require and how they apply to you.
  1. Take Action. If you are concerned that you are not being paid fairly, we are here to help.

Closing the pay gap is not easy nor is it the job of any one entity. In other words, we can’t do this alone.

Obama encouraged the nation to work together to address the economic challenges women face, saying: “This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

We agree.

At OFCCP, we will continue to make sure that employers understand and live up to their responsibilities under the law. We will also keep providing the information workers need to be their best advocates. Because getting to fair pay takes more than one agency or one advocate or one tool – it’s everyone’s job.

Patricia Shiu is the director of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 , petula January 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm

I don’t understand how you can get excited about something your working against?? the only thing you have done is ensure your steps towards dictatorship. And if I’m wrong saying that its only in your eyes. Your push for power and by using my ideas and words, you do realize plagiarism and malpractice is against the law?? I’m just wondering if your aware of the many laws your trying to break to push your agendas which is why i don’t understand why your still able to make decisions?? And you being a man of color would understand where I’m coming from unless your a uncle tom and I’m not trying to sound racist or in any way, I’m just trying to make a point

2 Rebecca February 15, 2014 at 11:13 am

I’m so glad that this issue is finally being discussed. I think everything from Maternity leave (not guaranteed or even covered by many companies), to the lack of appreciation for a woman who balances being a mother and having a career – is a failing course. It always seemed ironic to me that many politicians applaud their own mothers for the sacrifices they made while raising them – but fail to implement policies to support mothers going forward: implementing policies which would protect the values and work environment where women can meet the demands of mothers – and also be able to pursue a career where pay equity exists and are promoted/awarded equally to their male counterparts.

Women are masters at tasking – able to do more than what would otherwise be humanly possible – and doing it without desire for recognition – but for the mere fact it needs to get done. I’ve seen too many good women leave their careers because the pressure to chose between their children and their careers often left them choosing work over their children – it is a failing system where we send more and more mothers back to work when a baby is 6 weeks old and a promotion depends on how many times a mother chooses dinner with clients over dinner with her children. And still in light of these sacrifices, women are paid a salary of 70% of their male associates.

As women, we don’t always advocate for ourselves – but often we advocate for others. It is time we as women advocate for this change – and make a future for our own daughters very different from the era we live in.

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