Who is feeling the Wage Gap?

Haya Mohanna ’17 – Women In Leadership program

Fighting for women’s rights and equality has been an ongoing matter for decades. However, no one can deny that we have come a long way in promoting and implementing gender equality. For some such as Victoria Fox, CEO of LIDA and a writer for the Huffington Post, gender inequality and gender discrimination have not been issues. In her blog about International Women’s Day, Fox starts questioning why the world is still celebrating such a day and why after all these years, Women’s Day is necessary. Then she steps back and realizes that she has been fortunate enough to escape the effects of gender inequality. She states that she has been given the same opportunities as her male co-workers and has never felt that she had to balance her life at the expense of her career. For many women who are in Fox’s shoes, it is easy to ignore the reality and to be blinded by the broader challenges that face women worldwide. When Fox started to look at the statistics about women equality and realized that it is still an issue, she felt the duty to open her eyes and speak out for women. From her experiences, Fox advises that in order to “Make it Happen”, which is the theme for the International Women’s Day, women have to grasp every opportunity to get public support and be super-selective in their job selection.

On the other hand, some women decide to speak out. For example, Patricia Arquette’s remarks at the Oscars this past February lit up the internet. Her speech about gender and economic justice left many inspirational vibes amongst the audience. Even though Patricia is a well-known actress in the film industry, she admits that actresses are paid less relative to their male co-stars. Furthermore, she emphasizes the wage gap between women with children and childless women. Supporting her argument, the New York Times reports that “unmarried women earn 96 cents on the man’s dollar, childless women earn 93 cents on the man’s dollar and married mothers with at least one child earn 76 cents on the man’s dollar”. Patricia, concluding her speech, exclaimed “and it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for, to fight for us now”.

Erin Cassese, a writer for the Washington Post, is critical of Arquette’s speech exclaiming that Patricia’s remarks only included a fraction of women, specifically white women. She argues that Patricia’s speech treated gender and race as separate movements. As a result, women of color, generally seen as the most disadvantaged, fall through the cracks. She points out that the data reveals that women, on average, earn 77 cents on the man’s dollar. However, African-American women earn 62 cents on the dollar and Latinas women earn 52 cents on the dollar. In stating these facts, Patricia points out that everyone’s mistake when calling for women equality is to assume that there is a single wage gap. In order to truly reduce the wage gap, we have to look deeper into the economics stratification among women based on race and ethnicity.