Today is Equal Pay Day! This day marks the day in the year that women have to work to earn the same amount of money men earned the year before. For that reason, the day changes each year, and while we’ve moved up 8 full days from last year, today is still four months and four days into the year. Isn’t that a nice realization?
The gender pay gap is actually a topic I’ve discussed many times as an entertainment reporter. Recently, several actresses have come forward talking about how they are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Emmy Rossum, star of Showtime’s ‘Shameless’ demanded she be paid the same as her make co star William H Macy. Outstanding ‘House of Cards’ actress Robin Wright asked the same of Netflix. Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence has been very outspoken in recent years about being paid less than every one of her male co stars.
You know, it’s easy to write these wealthy women off. Let’s face it, Jennifer, Robin, and Emmy make more money per episode than most likely see in a lifetime. You may think, “how dare they complain about their millions,” and you’re right! It’s tough to relate, or sympathize with women in a much better financial situation than us. It’s much easier to roll your eyes and move on.
I’m with you, but I also commend these women for speaking up for their rights, and doing it so publicly. Though they’re making millions, the core value of their message is the same as every woman in America, and across the world who is not paid the same as men for the same job. Truthfully, I’ll be lucky if a hundred people read my little rant on this very important subject - but Jennifer can reach millions with her message. To simply brush her words off as “complaining” is incorrect, if you ask me.
Complaining. Now there’s a word that strikes a cord with me. When it comes to pay equality, I believe I’ve been paid fairly for my work in relation to the men at my companies - at least to my knowledge. (talking about salaries with other employees is, of course, frowned upon, so I can’t say for sure) Let’s just say, I’ve always been happy with my money.
My experience with pay inequality came in different forms. I once asked for a raise. My (male) boss went to his (male) boss and negotiated my pay on my behalf, without my knowledge or consent. I found out about the meeting after the fact, was given a small raise, and was told that was the end of the conversation. I was never even given then chance to advocate for myself, or prove to them why I was deserving of more money. When I protested, I was told to stop “complaining” and be grateful for what was given to me.
I heard that word again later on in my career when I was asked to do extra work for no extra pay. I’ve always been a “yes man” type of employee and agreed, but after weeks of doing the work, and seeing my (male) co workers do nothing, I brought up the issue to my (male) boss. The response: Why are you “complaining” so much? At this point I had developed a good relationship with my boss and simply texted him a meme that said, “I’m not complaining, I’m standing up for myself!” We both laughed and moved on. Although, I continued to do the work for free… That one’s on me.
See, when Jennifer Lawrence penned her now famous op ed about the gender pay gap in Lenny Letter, I resonated with her. I’m not making 10+ million dollars per project like she is, but the way she was treated as a woman in relation to her male co workers is exactly the way I was treated, the way many women are treated. She said she never pushed for more money because she felt the need to be “liked,” and she didn’t want to come across as “difficult.” I continued doing the job for free because I wanted to continue to be liked my boss. I didn’t push to renegotiate my raise because I would appear difficult. As many times as I’ve heard the word “complaining” in my career, also I’ve heard the phrase, “You need to be agreeable.”
I often wonder how many times my male coworkers are called complainers, or difficult to work with because they push for what they believe in, what they believe they are entitled to. Are they pulled aside at the end of meetings because they didn't agree with everything the boss said? I'm sure that's happened to a man before, but around the many workplaces I've been a part of, those men are "strong." Those same women are "bitches," and trust me when I say, no woman wants to be known as the bitch in the workplace. No wonder we're four months and four days behind.
Equal Pay Day is so much more than just women looking for more money - it’s a symbol of how we are treated in the workplace. I’m not going to pretend that I’m being terribly oppressed, because that’s simply not true, but have there been times when I’ve felt inferior to men at work simply because I am a woman? Yes. We moved up 8 full days from last year’s Equal Pay Day, and I hope each year we get closer to January 1st. Hopefully our bosses mindsets will change along with our salaries.