She’d called me into her office, this lady boss of mine, newly charged with running what was then the 6th-largest newspaper in the country. Honestly, I thought I was in trouble—somebody always had a problem with the black girl who insisted on writing about rappers from Brooklyn and black actors in Hollywood. Let’s just say that the majority didn’t really appreciate the lone black girl in the features department proclaiming loudly and proudly her disdain for Jimmy Buffett and her undying, unyeilding preference for Donny Hathaway and Biggie Smalls.
Anyway, boss lady calls me in and I’m all, “What did I do now” and she’s all, “If you repeat any of what I’m about to tell you, I will deny I said it and fire your ass.” Wide-eyed and gape-jawed, I listened as she explained the pay disparity between me and my mostly male, mostly white counterparts with the same experience (and less drive) than me; seemed that every one of them was making, on average, about $20K more than me, and, get this, they were getting bonuses every year.
In womanly solidarity, boss lady upped my salary and hit me off with a bonus; it wasn’t what the men were making, but the extra in my paycheck sure was appreciated.
Um, yeah: As you can imagine, she didn’t last long in that gig. Within about 10 months of her appointment, boss lady was unceremoniously replaced by a man (whom I assure you didn’t call me in to rectify the salary disparities, and never gave me another bonus).
All of this came rushing back to me recently when I read this story celebrating the 90th anniversary of the enactment of the 19th Amendment—the amendment that granted women the right to vote—and imploring the U.S. Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a new equal pay law that would make it tough for businesses to get away with discriminating against women. President Obama, who says he'll sign the law once it makes its way through the Senate, says the law would help not only women, but the economic security of our families. For sure, women are still making only 77 cents for every dollar earned by equally qualified men. And the wage gap is even greater for women of color, mothers, and women with more years of work experience.
The wage gap costs the average woman $700,000 over her lifetime.
Even crazier? There’s also a HUGE disparity between the salaries and hiring of mothers vs. non-mothers. THIS FROM “THE MOTHERHOOD MANIFESTO,” a book featured on the motherhood advocacy website, MomsRising.org:
Here it is front and center again: We face growing wage gaps between mothers and non-mothers (in 1991, non-mothers with an average age of thirty made 90 cents to a man’s dollar, while moms made only 73 cents to the dollar, and single moms made 56 to 66 cents to a man’s dollar). And this maternal pay gap has been growing. The pay gap between mothers and non-mothers actually expanded from 10 percent in 1980 to 17.5 percent in 1991.
Yes, it’s with motherhood—a time when families need more economic support for basic needs, childcare, and healthcare; not less support—that women take the biggest economic hits in the form of lower pay. And, it’s also with motherhood that some clues appear as to how the wage gap can be narrowed.
Dr. Shelley Correll’s groundbreaking research released in 2005 is a compelling addition to the long line of studies that explore the roots of this maternal wage gap… The basic findings: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers for the same job given the exact same resume and experience for the two groups of women (mothers and non-mothers). Her study also found that mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay. Study participants offered nonmothers an average of $11,000 more than mothers for the same high salaried job as equally qualified non-mothers.
How does this even begin to compute for our families, particularly in light of a recession that's taken jobs away from our men in record numbers, increasingly leaving us women—MOMS!—to be the sole breadwinners?
I’m calling on all my mothers to send a letter to your senators asking them to quickly pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. CLICK HERE to sign the MomsRising.org petition.
None of us should have to wait for a boss lady to make our paychecks right. It should be a given. And it’s up to us women/moms to demand it.