Friday, June 22, 2007

I Wonder What Took So Long

This is an article in USA Today on a topic that I first heard about on NPR this morning. The article is from February of this year, but the topic has resurfaced since Wimbledon 2007 is about to start. The first sentence sums up what I wish to discuss, so I repeat it here:

"After years of holding out against equal prize money, Wimbledon bowed to public pressure Thursday and agreed to pay women players as much as the men at the world's most prestigious tennis tournament."

The French Open only started paying equal prize money for the champion last year, though men still win more money overall at that competition. The article says that the U.S. and Australian Opens have paid equal money for years. To be more specific, I found that the U.S. has paid equal prize money for 35 years; I couldn't find when Australia started - but I did note in my research (performed surreptitiously at work, via internet, so don't quote me) that it stopped paying equally from 1996-2000, then took up the practice again.

Here's another more sinister example of the same discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear for years. She may or may not have been a good employee - she had some poor performance reviews, but she and other females claim that women overall tended to be rated lower than men. As an HR Manager myself, I appreciate the difficulty of dealing with a sub-par employee who demands similar perks to the high performers (it's usually the worst workers who complain to me the most). But I've also heard from management such comments as "the guys aren't ready for a woman to be in charge of them," "I don't think our customers would like dealing with a black person," and "girls don't like to get their hands dirty, so we'd better hire/promote/give a raise to the guy." Back to our story - after a 19 year career during which, despite her "poor performance," she was promoted, she received an anonymous tip that she was paid less than the men in her department - not only men with her same job title and experience, but also other men in the same job who were new hires. Not only did this impact her pocketbook to the tune of $225,000 over her 19 year career - it also lowered her 401K match eligibility, her Social Security payouts in retirement, her life insurance coverge, her ability to purchase homes. The list goes on.

She was awarded a payout which has since been overturned by the newly conservative Supreme Court. The reason? The statute of limitations on discrimination claims per the Equal Employement Opportunity Commission is 6 months. Even though she filed her claim immediately after receiving knowledge of her discrimination, because it extends over a 19 year career she isn't entitled to anything past the final 6 months. Even though the discrimination was occurring without her knowledge.

So it's not a huge revelation here that men are typically paid more than women, for any and every thing. And it's not particularly useful to gripe unless one gripes with an end to change. So I won't gripe. I'll just throw this out there, to my fellow Wonder Women, and any readers we may have. The work isn't over. If women from blue collar Lilly Ledbetter to famous tennis stars like Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams are still being shortchanged, then we still have a lot of fighting to do. I would love to come up with some sort of cause to link you to that we could support, but I have to get back to work. At my job. My HR job traditionally held by females that falls in a pay bracket significantly lower than more male dominated fields. Ah, the subtle, subversive nature of discrimination.

Not feeling the love today - G Love


Wicked M said...

This just ticks me off. Ticks. Me. Off.

super jane said...

oh do i have stories to tell. plenty of them on this topic. but, i can't share here because you just never know who is reading these things anymore. anyway, just know that it infuriates me. when i spoke up about it once i was told to keep my mouth shut because there is nothing that i can do to change the politics of the workplace. nice.

G said...

Yup. I censored lots of personal experiences in the interest of not being sued. All my examples listed are definitely from PAST jobs. Hear that bosses, should you be reading? PAST jobs.