The Slow and Unfair Pay Gap

Congratulations, women! The new Census data shows that the pay gap reduced from 2012 to 2013. From 77 cents in 2012, female workers now make 78 cents for every male worker’s dollar; that’s a whole penny! Now, don’t go spending it all at once.

In all seriousness, however, the fact that the pay gap shrank is good news, but the finer story is why the growth rate of women’s salaries compared to men’s has been so slow.

It is not because women themselves are doing anything wrong. More women invest in their educations at higher levels than men. 70 percent of women enrolled in college after high school graduation, compared to 61 percent of men. Women earned 60 percent of master’s degrees and 53 percent of Ph.Ds in 2011. This success rate has given women the opportunities to gain entry to a variety of industries, and reach executive roles in high-paying professions.
Women are now more than ever concentrating on their careers before they get married and have children. The average age of marriage has increased dramatically since 1970 when the median age of a bride was 22 years old. Now the median bride is 27 years old, and rising. In 1970, the average age to have your first baby was 22, but now it is 25. The teen birth rate is down a whopping 31 percent since 1990. This is most likely because teenagers are more careful about using contraception than they were in the ’80s and ’90s.

In recent years, it is likely that women’s hard work and dedication is the main and arguably the only reason that there has been any progress on closing the pay gap at all. President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Act in 2009. This act makes it easier for employees to sue their employer for pay discrimination. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Act may have caused some employers to reevaluate their policies and raise some of their women employee’s pay, but let’s be real here: as long as employees suing their bosses is the main enforcement mechanism for fair pay, most bosses are going to rest easy, since suing is hard under any circumstances but especially so if the person whom you are suing signs your paychecks.

There is overwhelming evidence that suggests that one of the main reasons women’s pay still falls behind men’s pay is the discrimination against women and specifically mothers. Bryce Covert pointed out that, “A woman makes less than a man no matter how much education she gets, what industry she enters, what job she chooses, or where she lives. She will even earn less even if she makes it to the very highest position possible: CEO.” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner noted in Politico, “Women without children make 90 cents to a man’s dollar, whereas mothers drop all the way down to 73 cents. For single mothers, it’s even worse, at a measly 60 cents on a man’s dollar.”

The penalty for mothers is gender discrimination on two levels. One level is frank: employers would rather not hire mothers. “Studies using equal resumes and job experiences found that mothers were hired 80 percent less of the time than women without children and were offered starting salaries that were $11,000 lower than those given to non-moms,” claimed Rowe-Finkbeiner.

Even if mothers do get a fair chance in the hiring process, mothers often fall behind because of social and family discrimination. “More than half of working mothers with kids under 18 have taken a significant amount of time off, compared to just 16 percent of fathers. More than 40 percent of women with children of any age have reduced their hours to care for someone during their working life, but just 28 percent of men fathers have done the same,” explained Covert.

A major part of the problem is that there are still expectations that the mother should make more sacrifices for the child than the father. However, the government could work to make sure that those sacrifices are not damaging to a mother’s career. We could, like France, have subsidized day care so that women do not have to give up their jobs because child care costs more than what they are making at work. Similarly to France, we could mandate maternity leave so that women do not have to give up their jobs just because they have a child.

On the other hand, what we need to stop doing is assume that women are doing anything wrong. It is clear that women are working just as hard as men, and making good choices. The only thing left that women could do to actually close the pay gap on their own is to stop having babies altogether. Since no one actually wants women to do that, we need to find a way to stop penalizing women and mothers, and rather find ways to support them instead.



Ebola Must Not Become a Statistic.

1,400,000. One-point-four million.
No matter how you spell it out, the sheer number of people who might have contracted Ebola in west Africa by mid January is staggering. The populations of Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and Bentonville combined fall about 600,000 short of that number, to give you some perspective. According to the WHO and the CDC, the outbreaks in Sierra Leone and Liberia could rise to between 500,000 and 1.4 million cases by that time, unless the current prevention and containment efforts are drastically improved. There have already been an estimated 5,800 recorded cases and 2,800 deaths from the disease, horrific data which the UN health agency can;t account for the number of unreported cases. The situation is, in a word, bleak.

But there is hope. Nigeria and Senegal have been declared “stable” areas already. And Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, says these worst-case scenarios are based on data form earlier in August, and do not take into account President Obama’s and other nations’ recent commitments of new supplies and troops to help contain the outbreak. Furthermore, the expected “surge” in aid can “break the back of tit she epidemic” and is “exactly what’s needed.” Frieden said he is now “confident the most dire predictions will not come to pass.”

So, why the bombastic, gloom-and-doom-the-end-is-nigh opening to this post? Well, there are three reasons. The first is because its how the sources I used for the post got my attention, and I thought it would work on you (it did). The second is that the US’s actions in West Africa up to this point have not reflected on the urgency this report warrants. And the third is that we now hold the lives of up to 1.4 million human beings in our hands.

So far, the US and other nations have been slowly increasing our presence in Ebola-stricken countries, ramping up supplies and personnel to key medical centers. By which I mean we have done just about didly-squat. The local health systems, inadequate by any developed nation’s standards, have been completely overwhelmed by the rapid spread of the disease. The fact that we are now staring a true endemic in the face is evidence of better-supplied, better-prepared nation’s lack of concern for the people trapped behind national quarantine lines. In their separate report, the WHO place the burden of the blame squarely on “international indifference… Perhaps most important[ly], Ebola has reached the point where it could establish itself as an endemic infection because of a highly inadequate and late global response.”

Essentially, we as a global community made sure national borders were as secure as possible, moved our own doctors out, and kept aid to the affected areas to a minimum. I hate to make this comparison, but there was more international cooperation on the 2014 World Cup than there has been on confronting this disease. Particularly damning is the US’s lack of commitment; we can tackle ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but we can’t be bothered combat a far more fatal infection threatening far more lives in Sierra Leone and Liberia. We should never have allowed the situation to come to this point.

But, finally, we have owned up to reality and promised to stop the disease sooner rather than later. What matters now is that we keep the people we almost abandoned in mind from here on out. Everyone who is currently ill, their terrified families, those who have been crowded into a Monrovia slum, the doctors working in torn containment suits with nonexistent supplies, the grave-diggers carving up to 16 new plots out of the bush every day, and the inhabitants of the slums downstream of those graveyards. These are not numbers anymore; they are not percentages. We cannot let human beings living in a man-exacerbated crisis become political footballs. They cannot be, if we are to provide the quality aid that these people deserve from us. Our indifference helped to create this problem And we have 1,400,000 reasons to do everything we can to fix it.