As my son grows up, I am probably going to have to pass on some knowledge (notwithstanding the obvious deficiencies in my bourbon-addled brain). And while he will no doubt revel in the fountain of data which his generation will control and may have no need of my input, one would hope there will be room in his heart for some home-spun wisdom.
One thing I shall endeavour to plant in his consciousness is that there is no need to be covetous when it comes to the size of someone else’s car, house or salary. I shall tell him that there will always be someone who earns more than you do; always someone with a bigger car; a nicer house. And good for them. They have obviously gone about their career in a slightly different way and have reached a level to which you can either aspire or disregard as being not worth the effort.
But what if these people do exactly the same job as you? What if they work in the same office, have the same title, but still earn more than you? Then I will have to explain to him that this is unlikely to affect him, because he is not a woman. Imparting this fact will certainly be easier than explaining it. I can’t even explain it to myself.
Last week, a new law came into being in California which forces businesses to prove that the higher salaries being paid to their male employees are due to reasons other than their sex. It was prompted by the fact that, as recently as 2013, a woman in California earned 84 cents for every dollar taken home by a man. And while the Fair Pay Act has been described as the strongest equal pay regulation in America, it’s 2015, for Pete’s sake! Is this still be in need of legislation? Yes, it’s certainly good news for women in businesses which pay heed to the law, but it’s not perfect. The sponsor of the Act, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, told the BBC: “There isn’t absolute transparency on pay in offices that aren’t run by the government or that don’t have a union.”
You would think that all of this would have been dealt with by now, especially given the fact that President Obama wasted no time in addressing gender pay inequality when he came to power. Indeed, his very first legislative act was to sign off the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a mere nine days after he took office. So why is a state such as California, which surely must be regarded as one of the more forward-thinking of the 50, just amending the law to crack down on this sort of anachronistic madness?
The film Suffragette is currently expanding the knowledge of us all regarding the travails of women to gain the right to vote. And while their final victory in 1928 was, and is, a cause for celebration, I for one would be ashamed to meet Emmeline Pankhurst today and have to try to explain to her why my generation was still keeping women down financially, 87 years after that supposed new dawn.
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