Today (April 14, 2015) is Equal Pay Day. We know it can be hard to get excited about a topic that generates misunderstanding, controversy, and most importantly, apathy. So we decided to address the three main reasons its hard to get excited about Equal Pay Day — and explain why you should care about it anyway.
1. You probably don’t know what it is.
No, you don’t get a holiday. And its actually not a day of celebration at all. Equal Pay Day is a day chosen to represent how much into this current year (April 14, 2015) “the average woman” has to work in order to get paid the same as “the average man” was paid last year (2014). In other words, its a day that’s been chosen by a non-profit, to raise awareness of a social and economic issue that’s been around for a long time.
2. “Equal pay” is not as straightforward as it seems.
Pay differences between men and women arise for many legitimate reasons (e.g. differences in education, seniority, qualifications, job choices) but also illegitimate reasons (e.g. discrimination, unconscious bias, poor or non-existent compensation policies). So people squabble over the reasons for the pay gap and its hard to separate the noise from truth. The economists and academics who study the issue present many statistics but still can’t agree about whether the differences are based on discrimination.
3. Even if you believe the pay gap exists and is a Bad Thing, you don’t think it applies to you.
And you might be right — depending on who you are and what you do. We know, for example, that the pay gap is less for younger women, childless women, Caucasians and Asians, and for women who work in certain states and cities. In other words, you are an individual and nobody is this mythical “average woman” or “average man”.
Of course its unfair if women are systematically paid less for doing the same work as men. But its only natural that you mainly care about your own pay. Specifically you probably care about getting paid your fair worth or “as much as possible” — and not just in comparison to what others make (whether they’re male or female). If you’re happy with your pay, that’s great. If you’re not, you should do something about it. What you do depends on your situation. You can ask for a raise if that’s what you want. You can look for a new job if you think you’ve maxed out the options in your current position. And finally, if you think you’re being discriminated against, you should consider your legal options. (If you’re curious, Fairygodboss’ company database includes a list of companies that have been accused of violating the Equal Pay Act in the past decade).
But here’s the point — you don’t have to be a political activist to care about Equal Pay Day. When it comes to your compensation, you shouldn’t take anything for granted. Every once in a while, you should actively think about your pay, and not just assume what you’re receiving is fair, correct or unchangeable. And that is exactly what Equal Pay Day reminds us to do.