Equal Pay Day

small_7677801114Call it what it is…an issue for the 2014 elections or a ‘feel good cause’ for Obama we should hang our heads in shame that it’s an issue at all in the U.S. in this day and age.

I just didn’t want the day to slip away without mentioning that today marks “Equal Pay Day.” The date symbolizes how far into the new year the average American woman needs to work to earn what the average American man did the previous year. Today President Obama signed an executive order banning federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation.

The president also signed a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race.

Obama is also urging the Senate to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act” which would impose new regulations on how companies pay employees in an effort to ensure women are not unfairly earning less than their male counterparts.

I’m posting my story here again…because not much has changed and seriously it is embarrassing which is what Obama stated today.

Lessons about inequality…the men’s room, getting tanked & a frog.

I graduated from college in 1985 and secured a position at a small public relations firm. It was a gateway job to a better position. After the acceptable 365 days of employment, I searched elsewhere. My salary was abysmally low and while most of my friends headed off to work in management programs at banks or investment firms my job was more like a Seinfeld episode.

My boss, Mr. K, was a fast talking public relations guy. If a client (had a dearth of those as well) called, we were directed to conduct an extensive search. If he was in the men’s room knocking was required.

Though I patted myself on the back for being a college graduate and I loved to write, I was clueless and there was no training program. The senior account executive showed me the ropes. Our major account was Pan Am. We arranged radio promotions across the country to increase airtime.

I enjoyed creating promotions and writing copy for on-air announcers. There was also press release writing and other responsibilities. I was exposed to different disciplines and the responsibility line was blurred.

Now for the Seinfeld part of the story. I also answered Mr. B’s phone, he had lots of famous friends. Mr. B, who was getting on in years, was a former Pan Am public relations executive. Pan Am asked us to house him. I was so green behind the ears, it took me a month to realize that Mr. B was inebriated pretty much every day. When he returned from lunch and attempted to sit, I worried he would miss his chair. He couldn’t get my name straight, and when he saw me in the elevator he had no clue who I was. For Christmas, he bought me a frog filled with bubble bath.

After 365 days, I found a job at Revlon. A big company, better pay (though not great), no Mr. B, restroom knocking or a bubble bath bonus. I had made it big or did I?

Mr. K told me that I wouldn’t like it because I was accustomed to working in a small agency and I would have limited responsibilities.

After a week, I quit. This was very out of character for me but Mr. K was correct. The position was limited and very administrative which was not how it was sold to me. This was the clincher, when I quit I was actually congratulated.

My boss took me out for a farewell lunch and said, “I don’t blame you.” He then regaled, “There’s a woman down the hall from me that holds the same position that I do and makes significantly less money…plus she’s been here seven years longer.”

That was 23 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics women working full-time earn 77 cents for ever dollar men earn. However, the figure is closer to 91 cents when you take into account women work in lower-paying institutions and those who leave the workplace.

Among college graduates women one year out of college are paid, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers are paid according to research conducted by the American Association of University Women in 2009.

Things turned out well for me when Mr. K tipped me off about a marketing job at Pan Am and I was hired! I just want to go on record as saying I personally have nothing against frogs! Yet, I do take issue that we are still hoping to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/7677801114/”>Leader Nancy Pelosi</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

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