North Dakota, nation still lag in women’s payFARGO – See that guy sitting next to you doing the exact same job? For every dollar he takes home, saves for vacation or puts toward retirement, you’ll take home just 74 cents as a working woman in North Dakota.
By: Heidi Shaffer, INFORUM
FARGO – See that guy sitting next to you doing the exact same job? For every dollar he takes home, saves for vacation or puts toward retirement, you’ll take home just 74 cents as a working woman in North Dakota.
The disparity between men’s and women’s wages has narrowed the past 50 years – from 59 cents to every dollar after the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act. But the latest statistics released as part of today’s Equal Pay Day show North Dakota has the seventh-largest gender wage gap in the U.S.
“It tells me we still haven’t made up the ground we need to,” says Renee Stromme, executive director of the North Dakota Women’s Network. “There’s legislation in place that’s supposed to guarantee equal pay for equal work, but it’s just not happening.”
Nationally, women average 77 cents for every dollar a man makes; Minnesota women fare slightly better at 78 cents, and South Dakota women make about 82 cents to a man’s dollar, the sixth-smallest wage gap.
The wage gap creates a chasm that only widens throughout a career, points out Kandace Creel Falcon, an assistant professor in women’s studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
“Over a lifetime, we’re systematically disadvantaged to the amount of money we’ll make,” she says.
Nationally, a woman working full time, year-round will make about $36,931, while the median yearly pay for a man is $47,715, according to 2010 census figures.
Over a lifetime, that adds up to an average of 92 weeks of food, 35 months of family health insurance premiums or 2,751 additional gallons of gas.
Single mothers and women who aren’t part of a dual-income household are the ones who suffer the most, Creel Falcon says.
Are we there yet?
The Equal Pay Act was supposed to mean women would make the same as men for doing the same job, but almost 50 years after its passage, women are still trailing behind.
“I’m sure that (women at the time) were hopeful that we would not be having this discussion still in 2012,” Creel Falcon says.
In fact, it still comes as a shock to a lot of women that the wage gap remains so large, she says.
North Dakota Rep. Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo, says it’s a complicated issue, but the solution should be simple.
“If you have the same job, then the pay should be equal,” she says. “That’s how we are in the Legislature. I make the exact same as my running mate, who is a male.”
But, unfortunately, sometimes it’s not that easy, Hawken says.
“If we just keep talking about that, eventually it will sink in,” she says.
Erienne Fawcett, a women’s studies instructor at North Dakota State University, says that the underlying reasons behind the wage gap stem from both the kinds of work women traditionally go into and the value companies place on the work women do. But it’s also still a matter of socialization, she says.
“I can’t tell you the countless number of women (during college advising) that have said, ‘I need a job that’s flexible so I can support my family,’ ” emotionally and financially, Fawcett says.
“I’ve never had a guy sit down and say, ‘I need a job that’s flexible’ for those same reasons,” she says.
Women can individually close the wage gap by addressing salary equality from the time they are hired, Fawcett says.
“You have to ask,” she says. “People aren’t just going to give you the pay raise; you have to dig your heels in and say, ‘I’m worth this much.’ ”
She also suggests researching what the national average is for the job you are doing to strengthen your argument.
Recent research suggests that it’s often ineffective even when women take a proactive and aggressive approach in the workplace, says Creel Falcon.
“To rely on an individual to fix the problem is pretty unrealistic,” she says.
Readers can reach SheSays editor Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511
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