An intersectional approach to wage equality
Equal pay for equal work seems like a pretty basic concept. However, over 60 years after the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex, even the most privileged women are still making 83 cents to a man’s dollar. Wage equality is an intersectional topic, rooted in what Bell Hooks refers to as white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, as these systems of power are all intertwined in hierarchies of money and power.
Although the root of the problem lies within the systematic sexism and racism that drives U.S. government, society, and corporations, income inequality is another factor of the same problem. The prevalence and range of income inequality in the U.S. is drastically more extensive than that of other capitalist and industrial countries, such as those in western Europe. Mostly due to inaccessible education, unprogressive tax laws and several other socioeconomic reasons that keep the underserved population poor, the bottom 50 percent of wage earners have experienced their share of wealth drop from 20 percent to 13 percent in the last 30 years.
Although the impact of this is felt far and wide, those who feel it hardest are often minorities; people of color and other non-white folks, disabled people, and women. Those who have experienced barriers to equal opportunities such as poverty and not having the right to an education, voting, and working higher level jobs must work much harder to catch up to people who have been raised with these privileges. The underserved are often told to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” which is a phrase that describes doing the impossible.
While this phrase is supposed to be inspirational, in reality, it’s a phrase that places the blame of people who are unable to succeed in society on the individual rather than the systems of oppression that hold them back. According to inequality.org, the bottom 90 percent of people earned an average of $34,000 in 2015, while the top 10 percent made almost 10 times that ($312,000). The top one percent made an average of $1,363,977 in 2015, while the top .01 percent made an average of $6,747,439. A lot of this wealth is inherited, and the pattern of demographics of the bottom 90 and top one percent indicate who did and did not have the opportunities to succeed.
However, as the battle against income inequality rages on and more systemic changes are made to provide equal opportunities to men and women, there is notable progress in the lessening of the wage gap and advancements of women to C-suite positions. Women are continuing education and earning more degrees than ever before, with 39 percent of women securing college degrees. Women have been pursuing education ever since receiving the opportunity to, and against all odds, have accomplished feats to earn their degrees.
Women make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce and 51 percent of corporate professionals. As more women acquire degrees and as casual sexism in the workplace become less tolerable, women are fighting for and earning their place in higher level positions where their impact is strong and their perspective necessary. Centuries of systemic oppression for sex and race do not dissolve in a matter of years, but the work that women are doing today creates progress and levels the playing field for the generations to come.
While the current state of income, education, and opportunity provides an unequal playing field for men and women, especially WOC, to achieve the same level of accomplishments, women have always been instrumental to major breakthroughs. Even in upper level corporate positions, women must recognize their worth in order to reap what they deserve in respect and pay, and although we must often be careful to not step on toes in the process of getting what we deserve, we must not be afraid to ask for equal pay as part of fighting for our rights. ‘
Women have an extremely valuable perspective to share with the world. By creating and participating in women’s marches, organizing charities to help other underserved women, calling legislators to protest oppressive bills and lobbying for equal rights, women can and do make their voices heard.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world–especially those related to gender and workplace relations. Make a comment below or reach out to her on Twitter @a_taylorian.
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