Equal Pay Is Essential for Everyone
There is no shortage of rhetoric from American politicians about the value of work. The problem is that far too many people are working as hard as ever, only to find that they do not make as much as their colleagues for doing the same work. The wage gap is an unfortunate reality for a significant number of American women.
On average, a woman presently makes 77 cents to every dollar a man makes in America and for women of color the situation is even more drastic. It is estimated that African-American women make 64 cents for every dollar a man makes, while for Hispanic women the figure drops to 54 cents. Women are now the primary wage earners in more families than ever before. This means that millions of people are depending on the wages of women for the basic necessities of living.
The wage gap most directly affects women, but its reach stretches far beyond their salaries. Many families need two incomes in order to support themselves. There has been a steady increase in the number of married couples, both with and without children, relying on a woman’s income. More and more children find themselves in poverty with a single mother as the only wage earner. Lesbian and trans women find themselves especially vulnerable due to an added layer of homophobia and transphobia.
When we agree to pay women less for their work, we devalue them and their work. We are sending a message now that women and their work do not matter as much as that of men. The principles of this country have long held that if you work hard enough, you should be able to support yourself. That is not the case right now for everyone, and a large part of this is based in the wage gap. Eliminating the wage gap will go a long way towards reducing poverty in America; it is something we must do.
David Blumberg is majoring in Gender Studies at Indiana University. Originally from Munster, Indiana, he is a member of Temple Beth-El. As a Machon Kaplan participant, David is interning National Council of Jewish Women this summer.