With President Obama’s support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, dialogue about equal pay for women and men will be starting up again. Personally, I think the very fact that women and men do NOT get paid equitably for doing the same work would be funny, if the fact of its continued, stubborn existence were not so sad.
Women’s Pay Through the Years
Paying a woman less money than her male counterpart can be traced to the days when men were the primary breadwinners in the family, and women’s work outside the home was considered “extra” income. The prevailing attitude of those times was that women did not necessarily need to work, because they had husbands and fathers who would take care of them.
But, times have changed. Today, an increasing percentage of women are themselves the primary breadwinners for their households. Also, many women have chosen not to marry and thus must support themselves, and sometimes their dependents as well.
Today, more so than ever before, there is no reason — beyond pure gender discrimination — why women should not earn as much as men for doing the same work. And yet, women continue to be paid less than men. In 2008, women earned 80 cents on every dollar earned by men. This was better than the 62 cents on the dollar reported for 1979, but lower than the 81 cents (an all-time high) reported for 2005 and 2006.
Gender Income Disparity Abroad
Other countries have the same problem: Women in Botswana earn 52 percent of men’s wages. The figure is 70 percent in Mexico, 55 percent in Peru, 60 percent in Japan, 72 percent in Thailand, 60 percent in Austria and 74 percent in Germany.
In our own field, decades of research has shown that women continue to earn less than men, even when years of experience and levels of education are controlled. If you want to learn more about this, come to the conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Denver next month. My colleague, David Dozier, Ph.D, and I will be presenting a paper that looks at gendered income disparities in public relations. Despite what some people think or fervently wish to believe, women DO make less than men in public relations; the data are incontrovertible.
Maybe if the Paycheck Fairness Act finally passes Congress and gets signed into law, we can eliminate, once and for all, gender differences in income. And I can do some other research and chair a different PRSA committee.
Join Bey-Ling, along with Robert Pritchard, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Teri Johnson, APR, for their co-presentation, “Face-Off: How Public Relations and Journalism Have Exchanged Roles in Modern Democracy,” at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, October 16–18 in Washington, D.C.!
If you are interested in more information on the PRSA Work, Life & Gender Committee, please contact Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, at firstname.lastname@example.org.