A Tale of Two Simchas and Equal Pay
We celebrated quite the simcha in my family last week: My younger brother, the youngest of five children, graduated from high school. And, not to be outdone by any of his older siblings, he finished second in his class, which meant he gave a speech at the graduation ceremony. Using Albert Einstein's revolutionary and initially controversial theory of the wave-particle duality of light as an example, my brother cautioned his peers that there would be times in their lives when their entire world would be turned upside down, when they would discover that the world is not as they thought it was. In those moments, he said, they would have a responsibility to apply their knowledge to the changing circumstances so they could effectively influence and contribute to society.
The mini-physics lesson was way over my head, but I could definitely grasp my brother's message about how we should react to such drastically changing circumstances. Being five years out of high school myself, I've already experienced this phenomenon, most recently when I started working at the RAC. Shortly after I chose my issue portfolio, I learned that women continue to make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. This wage gap exists after controlling for all other factors such as qualifications and experience. The fact that in the 21st century women continue to make less than men simply because of their gender completely astounded me as a new RAC Legislative Assistant. To truly follow the wise words of my brother's graduation speech, I would have to figure out how to turn the world right-side up again. That leads me to today.
Today we celebrate a different simcha: the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act. When the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, women earned approximately 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. We should not discount the progress that has been made in narrowing the wage gap since then, but the Equal Pay Act still has not fulfilled its promise of completely eliminating the gap. That's because the law contains significant loopholes that make it difficult for women to learn that they're being paid less, challenge this discrimination and eventually force their employers to change their pay practices.
The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 797/H.R. 1519) would close the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and give women the same tools to fight pay discrimination as those available to employees subjected to discrimination based on race or national origin. Working to pass this bill is a key way we can influence the way the world works and change it for the better. Send an email to your Members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act. You can also call their offices through the Capitol Switchboard, which can be reached at 202.224.3121.
My brother was right: In the real world, things are not always black and white, and it's the complexities and many layers that Einstein was trying to understand when he proposed his revolutionary theory. But in true older-sister fashion, I would add that some things are black and white--and equality is one of them. Women deserve to be paid equal pay for equal work, period. And we have a responsibility to make that a reality.