As hardworking college freshmen, we all have the potential to earn very fulfilling careers in the future. With these careers come incomes which we will have worked hard for pretty much every day of the work week. Sadly, there is a chance that not every one of us will get equal pay--on average, women make 79 cents to every $1 a man makes. The equal pay gap is a huge problem that must be made aware of to help prevent it from continually happening in the future.
I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Why should I care about this equal pay gap?" Well, that's a question I asked myself a few years back. I thought that this would probably never affect me, so I thought it was irrelevant. However, as young college students, we cannot just shove things off because they may not directly affect us--it can affect the people we care most about. Some people believe that data and information about the wage gap is not completely valid due to the lack of women in the workplace simply due to being mothers and/or purposely not taking higher-level jobs. Women working part-time are going to be making less than someone working a full time job, so with those statistics included it makes sense that many would believe the wage gap data is not concrete. But, with the increasing number of women in the workplace working full time in comparison to part time, their arguments are becoming less and less relevant.
It is also important to note that it is 100% ILLEGAL to discriminate against workers based on sex. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sex-based discrimination can be defined as, "treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person's sex. Sex discrimination also can involve treating someone less favorably because of his or her connection with an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain sex. Discrimination against an individual because of gender identity, including transgender status, or because of sexual orientation is discrimination... ." The EEOC specifically states, "The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment."
Despite our busy lives--filled with homework, jobs and studying--we should be aware of the problems going on around us so that maybe someday we can make a difference in the world. Equality should not be a problem today--whether it be for gender, race, age, etc.
So let’s start off by clarifying the common misconceptions it really means to support gender equality.
Starting off with the basics: I want to clarify that gender equality and feminism are actually incredibly similar—as seen in this graphic here, the relationship between these two concepts is that feminism falls as a subcategory under gender equality. Feminism can be defined as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, as well as organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests” as stated by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Meanwhile, according to the Website of Gender Equality Division, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland, gender equality can be defined in a similar way as "when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviors, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favored." As you can see, the only difference is that feminism has a slightly more defined direction geared towards women’s rights, but the main focus of both is to have equal rights for all genders.
Following that, another misconstrued perception of gender equality and feminism is that only women can be these kinds of activists, and in doing so all women feminists hate men. This cannot be farther from the truth. There have been a variety of historical and modern male feminist leaders in the historical timeline of feminism.
We have multiple figures who stand up for the rights of woman—most well-known are the male celebrity leaders of Hollywood.
For example, Bradley Cooper: a well noted actor for starring in movies such as “American Hustle” and “Burnt” who has more recently come to the spotlight in another way as a gender equality activist due to his connections
with his common co-star, Jennifer Lawrence. It recently came to light that Jennifer Lawrence was making almost a third less than what her male co-starts were making during the Sony Hack almost one year ago, according to Business Insider. From then on, Lawrence has made an unrestrained attack on the wage-gap, as she takes into account that though her pay is not as relatable as others, she still views this as a major issue. This leads to Bradley Coopers' involvement—there were many people who viewed Lawrence’s claims as unwarranted, but Cooper stood up for his co-star and said that “he has begun teaming up with female co-stars to negotiate salaries before any film he is interested in working on goes into production” according to Reuters.com.
Joss Whedon, a critically acclaimed director noted for his movies with
very strong female characters such as “The Avengers” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has been an advocate for women's rights. Whedon has won awards for his active feminist beliefs such as the Equality Now award back in 2006 and in his acceptance speech he goes over how, in almost every single interview, he asked the same question: 'Why do you create such strong, female characters?' He answers, “Because you’re still asking me that question…Equality is not a concept, it is a necessity.”
After naming just a few activists, the point I am getting at is that gender equality is not about pitting one gender against each other, it is about equal rights for all.
Now that I have cleared up the common misconceptions of gender equality, let’s start defining what the significance of gender equality in society actually is.
A multitude of women have been affected by the wage gap, which “is the result of a variety of forms of sex discrimination in the workplace, including things such as discrimination in hiring, promotion and pay, sexual harassment, and occupational segregation.” as summed up by the WAGE, a project that promotes women to “get even” with their pay.
The AAUW—the American Association of University Women, which is a group advocating for women’s rights with one of their key focuses on equal pay. They are commenting on how the US Treasury announced in July 2015 that there is to be a woman on the newly designed $10.00 bill, as to celebrate 100 years of Gender Equality.
But, groups like AAUW believe that there still has yet to be true gender equality. I didn’t want to just tell you how large the wage gap is for women; so, take a look here at this video sourced from and their support is from statistics as seen in this video.
As you can see, even a woman’s race can lead to an even larger wage gap. On average, white women make 22% less than men, African American women make 37% less, and Latin American women make 46%--almost ½ less than the average man makes. Can this really be deemed as equal rights for women?
The wage gap affects each woman in a different way—the gap can be bigger if a woman is older, as they face a gap of 83.8% on average, even having a well-established education can lead to a wage gap of up to 31%--this percentage has grown exponentially as seen in this graphic since 1991, according to WAGE.
You can promote gender equality by speaking up if you know something is not right—if there is a male or female that is being discriminated against due to their gender, be the advocate and the strong voice for the person who needs it most. Be the change that our society needs. Our society has potential to evolve into a place in which gender equality is normal and natural—advocate by contacting officials, signing up for newsletters or just speaking up for the women of today’s workplace, for your sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who have a large chance of gender discrimination. Be the change that our society needs.
Lead Image Credit: Indiana University of Pennsylvania