By Marsha Bailey, WEV Founder & CEO
I’ve never been afraid to call myself a feminist. It has nothing to do with how I feel about men and everything to do with achieving equal opportunities and equity for women.
There have been times when I’ve read media reports that “Feminists” did this or said that and wondered where they found these quotable feminists. Especially when I didn’t agree with the point of view being expressed. Feminists don’t all agree on every issue just like all Catholics don’t always agree with the Pope.
So how thrilled was I to be called by our local news station, KEYT, to comment on Patricia Arquette’s statement at the Oscars on equal pay for women? Pretty thrilled. I got to be the feminist in residence!
The Women’s Caucus of the California Senate, led by Santa Barbara’s own Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, took advantage of the media windfall to introduce Senate Bill 358, the California Fair Pay Act, “which will strengthen California’s equal pay laws to ensure that women are paid equally for work that is comparable to their male colleagues and do not face retaliation if they discuss or ask about pay at work.” It’s hard to know when you’re being underpaid when salary information is guarded like a state secret.
Pay inequity was a prime driver in the decision to start WEV nearly 25 years ago. When we launched our self-employment program for women in 1991, women earned around 64 cents on the male dollar for comparable work. The gap has narrowed since then, but among many women, notably Latinas, African Americans, and mothers, the pay gap remains unacceptably and shamefully large. In California, Latinas earn only 44 cents for every dollar earned by a male.
It’s not a new issue. In 1848, leaders of the Suffragist movement decried the practice of paying male teachers more than female teachers and tailors more than seamstresses for identical work. There has been a pattern of declining wages in sectors formerly dominated by men in which female workers now predominate. Clerical work and non-profit fund development are two documented examples.
I hope pay equity for women is an issue whose time has finally come. I think we’ve been patient long enough. 167 years to be exact.
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