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The Equal Pay Pledge: Why More Companies Need to Act Now

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The Equal Pay Pledge: Why More Companies Need to Act Now

About 20 years ago, students learning in school that women hadn’t earned the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified and became effective in 1920, were likely “horrified” and “indignant” at the injustice that preceded the amendment.

It would have been tough to understand why women hadn’t had that right all along. But similar injustices, or inequities, between the sexes exist today.

The same sentiment can be applied to the gender pay gap, in which women make 79 percent of their male counterparts.

According to statistics from the White House, which in June announced its Equal Pay Pledge initiative for the private sector, women are affected in the following ways:

  • White women can expect to lose out on nearly $500,000 in earnings over the course of their careers.
  • For African-American women, it’s closer to $900,000.
  • For Latinas, it’s up to $1 million.
     

But it’s more than the paycheck itself. Women also stand to lose out on overtime pay and contributions to retirement, such as 401(k) and Social Security.

Since the Equal Pay Pledge was announced in June, nearly 60 companies have made the pledge, according to an Aug. 26 Fortune article by Valentina Zarya.

The list includes large technology corporations (Apple, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft, to name a few), which may be influential in convincing other companies to follow their lead.

Beyond promising to close the pay gap, companies who have taken the pledge have agreed to other important work, Zarya writes. They promise to conduct an analysis around annual pay, to review hiring and promotion practices, to include equal pay efforts into other equality initiatives, and to identify and promote best practices to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.

In fact, Apple, which says it has no pay gaps, has promised to dig deeper into compensation to further understand equity challenges around the country.

Over the course of U.S. history, the challenges have been many for women and children.

Until recently, women couldn’t serve in combat, and they weren’t subject to the draft when it was still in effect.

Over time, women battled for access to birth control. In many cases, they could not own land. The titles to land and other holdings were typically passed to male heirs. Teachers, for instance, as recently as the 1950s, had to quit their jobs during pregnancy. Prior to child labor laws, youngsters toiled for long hours in dangerous mills and mines.

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The struggle for the vote started early. In 1647, Margaret Brent demanded two votes from the Maryland Assembly: one as a landowner and one as the legal representative for the colony’s proprietor, Lord Baltimore. She was refused.

In 1790, New Jersey gave the vote to “all free inhabitants” of the state. It was revoked for women in 1807.

Scholars have long studied the reasons for gender discrimination, and children are justified in being puzzled and even “horrified” to learn these history lessons in school. The White House, which is leading a $50 million initiative to close the gender pay gap and other activities to expand opportunities for and to improve the lives of women and girls, is taking significant steps. Let’s hope more companies quickly take the Equal Pay Pledge.  

Will you? Be inclusive!

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