A few days ago, I went to the best funeral I’ve ever attended.
It’s unusual to say that about an occasion normally considered sad and somber. But the memorial service for Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, a well-known finance executive in the U.S. and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, goes down in my book as a perfectly delightful send off.
Mickie founded her brokerage firm, Muriel Siebert & Co, Inc. which became part of Siebert Financial and went public in 1996. She also served as New York State’s Superintendent of Banking (referring to herself in her 2008 autobiography Changing the Rules as the S.O.B.). Mickie’s career has lessons for all women, no matter their occupation:
Have a dream and go for it.
Start your own game if those in power won’t let you into theirs — or even if they will but you prefer your vision of how things should be.
No matter how high you climb, help other women rise and keep them close to support you.
The bill is on its third try. In a 2010 senate vote, the bill failed to get any Republican support, even by the female Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who all voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
According to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Fair Pay Act will:
• Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race or national origin;
• Require employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions;
• Prohibit companies from reducing other employees’ wages to achieve pay equity;
• Require public disclosure of employer job categories and pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual employees; and
• Allow payment of different wages under a seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
The bill makes perfect sense—give all female workers a chance to see what their equal male counterparts are earning, and see if it matches up without getting sued by employers. In an economy where women earn some 33% less than males, why wouldn’t politicians see this as a good measure for ensuring equal rights?
“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” – Alice Paul, suffragist and author of the still-not-ratified Equal Rights Amendment.
Alice Paul had a singular mission, from which she never strayed: women’s full and unequivocal equality.
Today, on what would be her 128th birthday, I sing her praises and birthday wishes for at least three reasons.
First, She lived her principles—“wore the shirt” as in Power Tool #6. Interestingly, though today most of the opposition to women’s equality comes from the fundamentalist denominations of many major religions, Paul credits her religious upbringing for her deep convictions about the righteousness of women’s suffrage and women’s equality in general.
For many college-aged readers, loans are the reason we get the opportunity to get to college. We spend thousands of dollars in virtual money to get an education in the hopes that it will begin to pay off as soon as we get a job. Yet, despite the fact that we advance in our career fields, it seems like women’s investments aren’t paying off as quickly as our male counterparts.
A recent report released by the American Association of University Women, Graduating to Pay a Gap, found that the pay gap persists and even begins soon after graduation
—“women one year out of college who were working full-time earned, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers earned.”
It is important to note that even after variances like college majors, number of hours worked, and career industries were accounted for, women still earned less than men. One third of the gap cannot be explained by differences in education or unemployment, according to AAUW.
The annual hooplah over Equal Pay Day is over. At gatherings around the country last month, politicians and activists alike decried the persistent 20% plus pay gap between men and women. Now what? Back to work with our heads down as usual?
Securing fairness and equality in compensation requires each woman to be persistently aware of what she’s worth and stand up for herself in the workplace.
Securing fairness and equality in compensation is a long haul process that requires changes to laws and policies so the system is fair to all.
The personal and the political are, as usual, intertwined.
Sure, negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon can coach you on how to negotiate compensation more effectively for yourself. And when I speak and teach about my book No Excuses and its 9 Power Tools, I emphasize #3—use what you’ve got—to help women identify just how much power they have in their own hands, including the power to make changes in their paychecks.
And sure, as the Daily Muse pointed out, it’s good that the U.S. Department of Labor held an Equal Pay App Challenge seeking an app to educate people about the persistent problems of equal—or rather, unequal—pay.
But clearly these individual actions, as important as they are, constitute isolated drops in the deep blue ocean of needed systemic change.
Ledbetter’s new memoir, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, takes the personal and weaves it together with the political as she describes how she became a leader in the fight for equal pay.
I raise this question because today I experienced the disorienting juxtaposition of Equal Pay Day with the retro notion that women’s growing economic power makes us want to be dominated during sex.
Equal Pay Day marks the day in April when women wear red to signify we’re in the red, earning (by 2011 calculations) but 77.4 cents to men’s $1. And for African-American and Hispanic women the differential is significantly more extreme.
“It is intriguing that huge numbers of women are eagerly consuming myriad and disparate fantasies of submission at a moment when women are ascendant in the workplace…when—in hard economic terms—women are less dependent or subjugated than before.
It is probably no coincidence that, as more books like The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy and Hanna Rosin’s forthcoming The End of Men appear, there is a renewed popular interest in the stylized theater of female powerlessness…We may then be especially drawn to this particular romanticized, erotically charged, semi-pornographic idea of female submission at a moment in history when male dominance is shakier than it has ever been.”
Really? And whose preferred narrative do we think this zero-sum “power-over” social model is?
Talk show bloviator Rush Limbaugh calls 30-year-old Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a slut for advocating insurance coverage of contraceptives. Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus compares women to caterpillars. And the Augusta National Golf Club’s perfectly manicured greens remain firmly planted among those last bastions protecting male hegemony over society’s most powerful economic and political institutions.
The all-male golf club, based in Augusta, Georgia, has failed once again to award its coveted green jacket to a woman who clearly deserves club membership—IBM’s president and CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometti. IBM is one of three major corporate sponsors of the club’s vaunted Masters golf tournament, and Rometty is Big Blue’s first female CEO.
But as much as I’ve excoriated Augusta’s male leaders for perpetuating this exclusionary practice, and as much as I believe IBM’s board is culpable for not standing up for their own CEO, I’m even more distressed over Rometty’s failure to take this unprecedented opportunity to lift up not only herself but all women aspiring to the upper echelons of corporate leadership.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus caused a small uproar among Democrats yesterday after he compared the Republican Party’s female gender gap issue to a caterpillar problem.
“..If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus said on Bloomberg TV. Democrats quickly seized on the comments, accusing Priebus of comparing issues of women’s health to an insect infestation.
Are the chairman’s comments a sign that the GOP is truly not concerned about the gender gap it has with women? Or was it simply a poor choice of words that Democrats have blown out of proportion?
Caterpillars? How much deeper can the Republicans crawl into the muck?
Priebus’s remarks are just one more example of how the last bastions of sexism—and male hegemony over society’s powerful institutions—think. Or fail to think. Their disrespect for women is profound. Priebus’s unrepentant disregard for women’s intelligence and humanity will cost his party dearly in November.
If he, on the other hand, engages this controversy wisely, he can recast the debate over contraception properly into one about women’s moral and human right to make their own childbearing decisions, as well as one essential to the health of women and children. In so doing, he will be a hero to the 99% of American women, including 98% of Catholics, who use birth control at some time during their lives to responsibly plan and space their children. And well over 75% believe that contraceptive coverage should be mandated in insurance coverage, as it currently is in 28 states and the Federal employees health plan, in addition to being the standard of care in health insurance in general.
The right is trying inaccurately (deviously?) to create a religious freedom issue with a dash of the dreaded abortion debate thrown in for good measure. Let’s get this straight: no one is trying to force religious institutions that primarily serve their own flock to do anything against their consciences. Those institutions are free to do whatever their faith dictates.
Catholic schools serving primarily Catholic students with primarily Catholic staff using private money are different from large public institutions such as hospitals that are run by Catholics but serve a broad range of the taxpaying public with a broad religious spectrum of staff and use billions of federal dollars to do so (think, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal program and research grants, etc.). Those institutions should no way be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage because they are essentially secular institutions despite being stewarded by religious orders.
But look further behind the curtain, the Bishops and anti-women’s rights members of congress are trying to roll back the clock FOR ALL THE REST OF US on existing laws that rightly require health plans to cover contraception if they cover other prescription drugs.
We women are the 99% on this one, and we’d better speak up or we are in great danger of losing all the hard fought gains that were made during the last two decades to include basic contraceptive care in health plans. It’s only fair, and it’s the standard of good health care to boot.
There was a short piece in Monday’s USA Today saying that 2012 is shaping up to be another “Year of the Woman.” And they did have some very good news numbers to back that notion:
…a notable number of candidates are running in potentially competitive races in both the House of Representatives and Senate that could send a wave of female lawmakers to Washington in November. If so, it would reverse the 2010 election trend that saw the first dip in female representation in the House since 1978 and only sent one woman, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, to the Senate.
In the 2012 Senate lineup, there are 10 female candidates — four Republicans and six Democrats — seeking office. Of the six states with female Democratic candidates — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin — none has ever elected a woman to the Senate.
Republican women are running in Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and New Mexico.
I want to believe, oh how I want to believe. These numbers, though inching up, still represent a mere fractional increase—even if all of them are elected—a probability somewhere around that of hell freezing over.
At the rate we have been going for the last 20 years and since the first “Year of the Woman” in 1992, it will take 70 years to reach gender parity in Congress.