Lighting the Way to Fair Pay
There are many names for the Jewish community that appear throughout our texts. We are ”am yisrael,” the people of Israel. We are the “chosen people.” And we are also ”or lagoyim”– a light for all the nations. It is this last idea –that Jews are called to lead humanity toward a more just society – that prompts a lot of our social justice work. We model tzedakah and advocate for the poor. We welcome guests into our synagogues and homes, and fight for immigration reform. We embody and demand equality for LGBT members of our community.
Yet there is one area in which we lag behind an already abysmal social norm: the pay gap. The pay gap is a huge problem in American society more broadly – hundreds of thousands of dollars huge, in fact. With women making only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, a female high school graduate will lose over $700,000 of wages over her lifetime, a female college graduate $1.2 million and a female professional school graduate over $2 million.
While there’s a lot that can be done legislatively to fix this problem (including passing the Paycheck Fairness Act!), some think that this issue won’t be fully resolved until there is a sufficient mass of female heads of prominent organizations. Unfortunately, in the Jewish community, this goal still feels pretty far away. Of the top 20 highest paid Jewish professionals in America, none are women. Of the top 50, only five are women. And the effect trickles down: women working at Jewish organizations make an embarrassing 62.5 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers.
As Jews, we have a holy responsibility to heal and repair our broken world. But we can’t do this if our own community reflects the same injustices we are trying to correct. We need to fix the pay gap and fix the gender leadership gap in our own organizations, and then lead the fight for equality in America as a whole. Then can we proudly call ourselves a light for all the nations, an “or lagoyim.”