By Lawrence P. Schaefer |
The recent threatened boycott by the U.S. Women’s Hockey team highlights a very troubling issue that persists in our society – the fundamental disparity between wages earned by women versus men in our society. Despite the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Equal Pay Act of 1970, and the more recent Lilly Ledbetter Pay Fairness Act of 2009, studies routinely demonstrate that women earn about 80% of what men are paid for comparable work. Sadly, this disparity only increases when considering African American women as a group (63%) or Hispanic Women (54%), compared to white men, according to studies published annually by the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, these gaps have remained relatively stagnant since 2007, despite laudable efforts made by the Obama Administration in this area, which will not likely be a priority for the current administration.
The Global Gender Gap Report and U.S. Women’s Hockey
In 2015, the World Economic Forum published the “Global Gender Gap Report.” This report analyzed gender equity across many factors, and ranked the United States as 28th (of 145 countries evaluated) in gender equality for women, behind most European countries. Therefore, while we may perceive ourselves to be a gender-blind society, and congratulate ourselves for the strides made in gender equity over the last 20 years, reality paints a very different picture.
How do we, as a society, move toward this entirely justified and achievable goal – paying women at parity with men when they perform the same or similar work? First, we support public efforts like those made by the US women hockey players to be paid equitably (though the team is not seeking compensation and benefits at full parity with the men), and to be provided similar benefits as male hockey players privileged to be selected to play for their country. Second, we think globally and act locally. We identify why European countries (and especially Scandinavian countries) appear to have largely erased a disparity which persists here, and we challenge not only the end result of flawed compensation systems in terms of their impact on women, but the unregulated influences in these systems that are largely responsible for these disparities.
For instance, when companies simply rely on market forces in setting wages for incoming employees (and especially at management and executive levels), placing great weight on past compensation levels, or similarly rely on modest salary increases upon promotions, without considering potential gender inequity or pay to past incumbents, these companies unwittingly perpetuate the ingrained disparity reflected by the above studies. This violates the law.
Finally, women earning less than men need to be emboldened to challenge these disparities, as the above laws provide a strong basis for such a challenge. These women will find willing and experienced advocates in the lawyers at Schaefer Halleen.
Interested in Female Athletes?
Be sure to read Anna L. Veit-Carter’s post, Gender Wage Gap in the Legal Spotlight.
Lawrence P. Schaefer has earned the respect of judges and other lawyers for his thorough and aggressive client advocacy in negotiation and litigation. He focuses exclusively on representing people who have been subject to employment discrimination at work. Larry serves as the firm’s President and head of litigation.