Could I Trouble You for Equal Pay?

One doesn’t have to look beyond pantyhose and the lines for the bathroom at any sporting or cultural event to recognize there is a War on Women. The problem is, it’s not a spectacle of firepower; it’s more the slow drip of water torture. And we are all complicit. We are simply conditioned to mistake what is for what should be.

A few weeks ago half of us marked Equal Pay Day and even then, we did so with a yawn. It seems self-evident that women and men should be paid equally for doing the same job, assuming equal performance, skills, etc. So, do we march in the streets for the fact that U.S. women in specialty professional occupations earn less than 73% what a man in the same position earns ( NYTimes Wage Gap) and that a woman has to work 108 days into 2012 to equal what a man made in 2011? Not really, the vast majority of us pledged silent solidarity and got back to work, lest we fall farther behind.

It makes me wonder if it’s a crisis of relativism. Certainly we have come a long way:

  • Women make up 46.7% of the workforce and 14.4% of Fortune 500 executive positions
  • 40% of US businesses are women-owned and employ 35% more people than the Fortune 500 combined
  • 36% of women in the US between ages 25-29 have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 28% of men

But for every stride made and accomplishment logged, we hear 10 gut-wrenching statistics on honor killing, human trafficking, and gender selection.

We sit down and think, “I shouldn’t complain, at least I can drive, attend school, and marry/procreate if I choose to.” Serve up another slice of status quo. It’s not a zero-sum game. Raising the profile and success of women in one hemisphere doesn’t increase the plight of women in another – quite the opposite. Empowered women influence policy, inspire action, and give hope. Sounds like one step closer to “should be” to me.

Barbara Milhizer is a Partner with PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on twitter @mother_zen. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.

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