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Bridging the pay gap between genders

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It is against the law to discriminate due to gender or race. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires that men and women be paid equally for equal work at the same employer. The jobs don't have to be identical, but they must be very similar. Job content, rather than job title, is what counts, the government says. If it's a clear-cut case that violates the law, your company will probably be anxious to avoid litigation and be willing to immediately remedy the situation.

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If your company doesn't want to make good and doesn't make a compelling case to justify the salary discrepancy, the next step is to file a grievance, if you are a union member, or file a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. You can contact the EEOC by phone at (800) 669-4000 for the field office nearest you.

In addition to negotiating better pay, another option is to work collectively to boost women's salaries. Many women don't realize that wage inequity isn't just their problem, it's society's problem. It not only impacts you, but your husband, your children and other families where women are wage earners.

Join the club
Murphy, who is also an economist and a former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, founded Women Are Getting Even, or WAGE, a nonprofit organization with the stated goal of ending discrimination against women in the American workplace. She has started "WAGE clubs" where women can work together to boost wages for their gender. Currently 100 WAGE clubs have appeared since April 2006. Murphy hopes to have 500 going by the end of 2007.

These wage clubs can be company-centric or they can emerge anywhere women gather -- for example, at the YWCA for a workout. Working within a group empowers women. It also puts more pressure on employers to re-examine their pay scales when complaints are lodged by a group rather than an individual. For more information, visit the Web site.

Start on the right foot
For women who are just starting out, avoiding a gap between what you and men are paid can simply be a matter of picking the right career, says Myrtle P. Bell, an associate professor of management at the University of Texas at Arlington. "What I tell my female students is, 'Why be a dental hygienist when you can be a dentist?'"

In other words, seek out positions that pay better, and, in general, strive for the education that's required.

It's up to women -- and men -- to step up to the challenge of making sure they are paid fair and equitable wages. That extra effort ensures that the employees coming after them will finally work in a world where equal pay for equal work is a reality.'s corrections policy -- Posted: Nov. 6, 2006
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