Wage playing field between men, women must be leveled

Equal pay for equal work. Seems like a pretty simple concept, right? In practice, though, it apparently hasn’t been easy enough for those doling out wages to women.

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day and has been observed as a way to raise awareness of the inequality in earnings among men and women in the workforce.

For quite some time now, women have been at a disadvantage compared to men when it comes to receiving higher salaries, and though that has been changing somewhat in recent years, the progress may not be moving fast enough.

That’s why the American Association of University Women-Marquette Branch hosted a wage negotiation workshop on Tuesday.

The event was open to both males and females, but an obvious focus was equal pay among the sexes, considering April 2 is the date a woman would finally earn the same amount as a man, though she’d have to work a little more than three months longer than he would’ve.

“Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day of which women have caught up with men as far as what men make starting Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018,” Marquette Branch President Judy Puncochar said in a recent Journal story. “That’s one year of work. On the average, then, when women start on Jan. 1, 2018, we would have to work until … April 2, 2019, to have equal pay for our equal work.”

Karlyn Rapport is public policy representative for the AAUW-Marquette Branch, and she said the pay gap is narrowing, but the rate of progress isn’t very speedy.

“Women working full time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are paid 80 percent of men’s earnings, and if you are a woman of color, the gap is wider,” Rapport said in the Journal article. Compared to the white man’s dollar, African-American women make only 61 cents, Rapport noted, and Latinas are even worse off at 53 cents on the dollar.

In a country that’s supposed to be considered a global leader on equality and fairness, these statistics show that the U.S. — at least as far as our business dealings go — is anything but.

And that inequality starts right out of college. When our nation’s young women first enter the workforce, they make 7 percent less than males with the same field of study, experience and training, according to the AAUW. Unsurprisingly, the gap widens as they age.

A person’s pay should never be based on their sex, gender, color, sexual preference, political affiliation or otherwise.

This practice, whether intentional or not, is simply unjust.

The fact is that women won’t be the only beneficiaries of equal pay. At least some men, too, will benefit in the long term. Let’s say you’re a man and you marry a woman. Both spouses will have a better outcome if she’s paid fairly for her efforts, since the woman will be making more money to help support the family.

We’ll be clear to say we’re not advocating that any woman should earn as much as any man simply because she’s a woman, or that all employees, for that matter, should receive the same pay regardless of their abilities.

Salaries and wages should be based on experience and skills so that every employee is valued appropriately. If the woman is more experienced than the man, she should make more money, and likewise for the reverse.

But that type of equality can only happen if we start by leveling the playing field in the first place.

Ensuring both sexes receive equal, and fair, compensation for their work is a proposal everyone should be able to endorse — Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian or otherwise.

It’s not political and it’s not divisive, it’s just the right thing to do.