See Red, Be Red for Equal Pay Day, Today

My red shoes

Red happens to be my favorite color. I’m an Aries after all. A classic one according to my sister (maybe that wasn’t meant as a compliment? Pioneering, passionate courageous, dynamic they say, but also selfish, impulsive, impatient, foolhardy.). Even my planet, Mars, named for the god of war, is red.

So I laughed when tweets from AAUW and National Women’s Law Center (NLRC), two organizations that have been pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act and have declared this Blogging for Fair Pay Day, told me to wear red today.

No problem. I’ll just close my eyes and pull something out of my closet. It’ll more than likely be red.

There are many fabulous people blogging today about the fact that women make on average 78 cents to every $1 earned by a man, and women of color earn even less: African-American women earn 62¢, Latinas earn 53¢ for $1 earned by white, non-Hispanic men. NLRC can tell you how the comparison shakes down in your state.

Rather than write a long diatribe, I want to link Heartfeldt readers to some sources I’ve found particularly compelling or useful.

I’ve often said that equal pay should be considered part of the stimulus package. Liz O’Donnell’s op ed in the Tucson Citizen explains how the economics work:

It doesn’t take an economist to understand that when American families are struggling, consumer spending goes down. And consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of total economic activity. Even the best laid stimulus plan is at risk unless we right the gender inequities in the workplace.

Closing the wage gap and promoting women in the workplace has to be part of the package if we are going to revive our economy.

Feminist Peace Network continues its “Girl’s Guide to the Economy” series with this argument for we should get the additional 22 cents. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research compares pay by profession.

If you twitter, you can go here to read all the #fairpay tweets.

And Change.org gives you all the goods on the history of women’s pay progress–and there has been much progress, thanks to much hard work by women and men who have a sense of fairness and equality.

But still, good grief, what makes me really see red is that in 2009, we are still fighting to pass a piece of legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.182), that is nothing more than simple justice, and asks companies to do nothing more than to be fair to all employees regardless of gender.

So right now, while you are all hot and bothered about it, go here to send a message to your senator, or call him/her at 202-224-3121 and voice your support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill has already passed the house, so we’re within shouting distance (hey, maybe Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic party today will put them over the top!)

Wearing red to highlight the need for equal pay shouldn’t be necessary. Equal pay should just BE. But till it is, please see red and be red with passion for equal pay.

Let’s see, which of my 10 red tops shall I wear tomorrow?

The Value of Work Deja Vu All Over Again

There has been a marked change in the estimate of [women’s] position as wealth producers. We have never been “supported” by men; for if all men labored hard every hour of the twenty-four, they could not do all the work of the world. A few worthless women there are, but even they are not so much supported by the men of their family as by the overwork of the “sweated” women at the other end of the social ladder. From creation’s dawn. our sex has done its full share of the world’s work; sometimes we have been paid for it, but oftener not.

Any idea when this statement was made? OK, a clue: I recently ran across it in a speech given by Harriot Stanton Blatch at a suffragist convention–in 1898.

Blatch went on to raise issues much like what Ai-Jen Poo said at the “Unfinished Business” program 111 years later,  what Moms Rising has organized itself to organize the troops about now, and what dozens if not hundreds of bloggers will be talking about this weekend over at Fem 2.0:

Unpaid work never commands respect; it is the paid worker who has brought to the public mind conviction of woman’s worth…If we would recognize the democratic side of our cause, and make an organized appeal to industrial women on the ground of their need of citizenship, and to the nation on the ground of its need that all wealth producers should form part of its body politic, the close of the century might witness the building up of a true republic in the United States.

Yep, don’t agonize: organize. Band together to make the workplace and worklife such that people of both genders can both earn a living and have a life. This is the necessary next wave of the feminist movement, one in which both men and women must participate. Because these days, men want to participate in their children’s lives as women have always done. Family-friendly policies benefit everyone. But many if not most men are afraid to take paternity leave or a sick day to take care of an ailing child. And those not in paid employment, as well as the growing number of freelancers and caregiving workers, often have no health care benefits or paid sick days.

As the workplace moves ever closer to gender parity because employers need the skills of both men and women; as the ailing economy moves ever closer to one in which both partners must work outside the home to make ends meet, and as the cultural power balance between partners becomes increasingly equalized because of growing parity in income generation, the work that both do at the office or at home–or in someone else’s home–must be valued and supported accordingly.

Let’s not still be having this debate another 100 years hence. Check out the campaigns over at MomsRising.com to find out how you can help make the needed changes.

Goodyear, You Can Spare $360K for Lilly Ledbetter?

You know how I like to ask “so what are you going to do about it?” Well, here’s a great example, courtesy of blogger Joanne Cronrath Bamberger, aka PunditMom. She has graciously allowed me to crosspost her commentary from Huffington Post. For those of us who feel justice requires that Lilly Ledbetter receive compensation for her heroic efforts on behalf of all women’s paycheck equality, Joanne provides an easy way to communicate to Lilly’s former employer, Goodyear Rubber and Tire, and urge them to make good on the pay they in effect robbed her of over the years. Here you go, and don’t forget to drop your note to Goodyear:

As so many women have been basking in the glow of the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the news reports reminded us that even though Lilly has become a standard bearer for the fight for fair pay for women, Lilly herself will never see a nickel of the money that she sued Goodyear Rubber and Tire for.

The Ledbetter law overturned the Supreme Court decision denying Lilly the $360,000+ of back pay and benefits that the trial court had ruled she was entitled to, but the newly signed law isn’t retroactive; it only applies to cases going forward. So the 70-year-old, recently widowed Ledbetter, who worked in a tire factory for almost 20 years to support her family, only gets the psychic benefit of knowing she was able to help other women. Hopefully.

But here’s the thing — the appeals court rulings that denied Lilly her back pay were based on a now invalid argument. So, technically, the factual finding by the trial court that Goodyear discriminated against Ledbetter would stand today. Goodyear is steadfast that it didn’t do anything wrong, according to a statement Goodyear released following the Ledbetter signing ceremony, making the corporation sound like the victim, not Lilly.

While Goodyear likes to focus on the Supreme Court’s decision that it didn’t have to pay anything because Lilly didn’t file her case under a tortured reading of the existing statute of limitations, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summed up what was really going on in her dissent. Ginsburg, as the lone woman on the court, reminded us of “the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”

“The Court … overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differentials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasons for those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.”

It’s really been bothering me that a corporation like Goodyear that reported profits of $602 million in 2007 (its most current annual SEC filing) most likely spent much more on attorneys’ fees than the $360K it could have paid Lilly, trying to convince us it didn’t practice gender discrimination. According to its 2007 annual report, Goodyear did, however, pay millions to settle other types of lawsuits. So I thought, wouldn’t it be refreshing if Goodyear would do the right thing and pay Lilly Ledbetter the back wages it should have paid her in the first place?
If we really want to honor Lilly and what she did for us and for our daughters (and our sons — they’ll benefit from this, as well), I say we should all call on Goodyear to pay Lilly what it should have paid her to begin with. You don’t even need an envelope or stamp. Here’s a link to the Goodyear site with the names and online form to contact Goodyear’s Global and Corporate Communications honchos.

Here’s a short letter you can feel free to use:

Dear Goodyear:

Now that President Obama has reversed the Supreme Court decision that denied Lilly Ledbetter her $360,000 in back pay, we call on you to do the right thing and pay Lilly what she should have been paid over the course of 20 years. While the new Ledbetter Law is not retroactive, think about all the public goodwill Goodyear would receive in these tough economic times if it stepped up and did the right thing by Lilly.

Sincerely yours,
(name)

I know it’s a long shot, but sometimes a little shame can go a long way. And given what Lilly did for us, I figured it’s the least we can try to do for her.

Joanne Bamberger is a professional writer, political analyst and social media consultant in Washington, D.C. She is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, and is a Contributing Editor for News and Politics at BlogHer.

TAKE THE LEAD, LADY! Practical Leadership Skills

If I’m lucky, there is at least one magic moment during a speech when I see people nodding in unison. Sometimes they smile knowingly; sometimes they look pensive, even pained, as though a raw nerve has been exposed. It’s not necessarily that they are agreeing with my brilliantly persuasive arguments, but rather that something resonates at a deep emotional level.

For example, I recently spoke to the women’s leadership council of a major corporation that was going through major upheavals in their business, and therefore in their personnel. Because women even today tend to be among the later hired, they are still more vulnerable to the layoffs and changes swirling about them. The energy in the room was high nevertheless, and people were clearly looking for ways they could create a positive atmosphere for their staffs to accomplish their goals despite diminished resources.

So we talked about how they could take the lead to be like sisters to mentor and support one another, have the courage to make needed changes, and strategize together like a movement to leverage their individual resources and capacities. And everybody was coming along with me pretty well.

Then it got very quiet.

I could see those heads nodding practically in unison, like a waving grainfield, when I observed that women tend to isolate themselves and feel like they have to solve their problems alone. This is what I said:

Do you notice that women are more likely than men to feel isolated in their workplaces? First of all, they try to struggle with their problems of work-life balance individually. And they’re more likely to burrow in, work hard, and hope that hard work will inherently be recognized. I have news for them—it probably won’t.

Speaking up and being one’s own best pr person is essential. No one ever assumes you have more power than you assume yourself. Have you read Debra Condren’s book, AmBITCHous? I commend it to you. She tells you how to get over that internal resistance to seeking after money and power that so many of us women are socialized to have even today.

Whew, it was powerful, that head-nodding moment, almost like a release of some kind of unspoken barrier they could now talk about and get past.