WHERE'S MY 20 CENTS? Sen. Clinton recently re-introduced paycheck equality legislation timed to women's history month, presumably to curry favor with women voters. It's well documented that women still earn roughly 80 percent of what men earn, and the legislation is designed to close loopholes worked into the 1963 Equal Pay Act.
While requiring businesses to pay women salaries equal to those of men is an admirable goal, I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of devoting effort to this kind of legislation. For many reasons, pay equality is a complex issue, saturated with disproportionate family obligations, slow institutional changes, and the secret nature of salaries. Many women don't even realize that they're making less than their male counterparts because salaries are not something culturally kosher to discuss.
The American Association of University Women views this as a pet issue, and openly endorses the Paycheck Fairness Act. Interestingly enough, AAUW supplies very good information on state-by-state analysis of gender pay inequality. D.C. is ranked number one, with women earning 96.7 cents on every dollar a man earns.
America ultimately has an old white dude problem. Women and minorities have trouble cracking into the most elite and prestigious levels of nearly every kind of work. I've spent some time researching this in the context of academia, but I've seen similar parallels among the elite levels of media, government, art, business, law, and on down the line. As I said, the reasons behind this are complex, but ultimately it's going to take more than simple legislation -- it's going to take some difficult institutional changes across the board.
-- Kay Steiger