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7 Actions to Take for Equal Pay Day

7 Actions to Take for Equal Pay Day

Young girl with blonde curls dressed in superhero costume with mask and boxing gloves

Equal Pay Day symbolizes the extra time women, on average, need to work each year to earn the same salary as men. This year, Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, April 4, 2017, marking the date on which a woman’s earnings finally catches up to what a man earned for the same job by the end of last year. Coming on a Tuesday, Equal Pay Day also marks the number of additional days each week a woman needs to work to earn what her male counterparts earned by the end of the prior week. 

In almost every occupation, women continue to earn less than men, with about 80% being the average in both the U.S. and Canada. At our current rate of progress, it will take 50 to 100 years for women to reach parity with men.

The issue of pay equity is not a woman’s issue – it is a family issue, and it is an issue of fundamental fairness and justice. When we under-value, and under pay, a segment of our workforce, we are all diminished. 

Sadly, all the studies that have been done by Reform organizations show that our female professionals, including rabbis, cantors, and educators, face the same gender disparity as other professionals in North America. I am part of those statistics. Throughout my career, I never earned the same wages as my male counterparts. Over the years I heard many excuses for this disparity. But at the end of the work day, the underlying message was the same: The Jewish community that I serve, and love, simply does not value me to the same degree as my male colleagues. 

That is, however, until I began working for Women for Reform Judaism. For the first time, the leadership and I engaged in a transparent, collaborative process, looking at standard salaries for comparable positions, factoring in cost of living, experience, qualifications, and responsibilities. And for the first time, my salary was adjusted based on objective criteria. I am extremely grateful to WRJ for this. Nonetheless, I will never be able to reclaim the earnings and pension that I should have had for all those years, and my financial well-being will forever be diminished as a result.   

We can do better than this. It is time to get our Reform Jewish house in order. 

To that end, Women of Reform Judaism and the Women’s Rabbinic Network are working collaboratively to engage all of our Reform institutions on this issue. We are committed to moving the needle on pay equity for women working in the Reform Movement, and we need your help to do this. Here are a few things you can do to assist in this effort:

Here are some individual actions you can take for for Equal Pay Day on April 4, 2017:

  • Wear red! Women around the world mark this day by wearing red and posting photos of themselves on social media. WRJ encourages you to use #WRJWearsRed in your Equal Pay Day photos!
  • Join the "Twitter storm" by sending a tweet on April 4th at 2:00 pm using #EqualPayDay.
  • Download the National Committee on Pay Equity's Equal Pay Day Kit for legislative information, sample letters to the editor, op-eds, and other useful tools.

Visit WRJ’s Pay Equity webpage for program ideas, including:

  • Read Lilly Ledbetter’s book, Grace and Grit, with your book club using a special discussion guide.
  • Use the Equal Pay "Living Talmud" text study as a discussion-starter.
  • Partner with others, such as your temple youth group or local sororities, to provide mentoring programs or negotiation skills training for younger women.
  • Raise the question! Reach out to your temple leadership to determine if the salaries you pay your dedicated staff members are fair and equitable. Don’t just take ‘yes’ for an answer; find out how your temple leadership assures pay equity, for example:
    • Did they review comparable salary levels in the community using multiple websites such as Glassdoor, Payscale,, or
    • Did they consult the relevant professional associations to confirm that salaries are within the norms for your community?
    • Do they periodically review salaries to determine if similarly situated staff, with comparable experience and training, are paid equitably
    • Are they committed to making adjustments if warranted?

Pay equity for women within our Reform community is achievable. It simply requires a commitment to establishing institutions that are truly sacred, built on a foundation of justice and fairness. We owe this to ourselves, to our employees, to our daughters, and to all the women and their families who come after us. 

 Rabbi Marla Feldman is executive director of Women of Reform Judaism and the former director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman
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