After November 6th Women Are Essentially Working For Free

Even though we’re more than 50 years beyond the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women still face an uneven playing field.

Might as well take the rest of the year off, ladies. You’re working for free anyway.

Women, on average, earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. With 260 working days in a year, that’s the equivalent of women not getting paid for the last 55 days. Which means that, after November 6th, women are, figuratively speaking, off the payroll but definitely not off the clock.

I’m pretty sure that America’s economy would suddenly grind to a halt if women decided that we could put our feet up and take the rest of the year off. In fact, women in Iceland did exactly that in 1975 – over 90% took October 24th off, refused to go to work, cook, clean, and left the childcare to the fathers.

The move was no doubt effective. After a day of businesses shutting their doors, children running amok in the streets with dads who, at that point in time, had relatively little experience trying to control them, Iceland now has one of the most equal economies for men and women.

The gender pay gap not only hurts women, but for working mothers, it hurts entire families. Even though we’re more than 50 years beyond the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women still face an uneven playing field. Yet there are critics who claim the difference in pay is explainable by factors other than discrimination. So first, let’s look at the two main ways people try to defend the wage gap.

The pay gap is due to women’s career choices

This is true. Women and men have traditionally made different choices when it comes to a career path. Women are overrepresented in occupations such education and health care, and it’s more common to see men working in construction or in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

But this doesn’t make a wage gap any more acceptable. We have long undervalued people who do incredibly important work, such as caring for and teaching our children – work that has historically been deemed “women’s work” in our culture. Therefore, we have to ask: Are these careers paid less because they’re less difficult and less important, or because we’re still discriminating against women? Although women might be entering careers that pay less due to their choices (or possibly due to social pressures), this does not excuse the wage gap.

At the same time, much more should be done to increase the number of women in traditionally male-dominated fields. Currently, female employees account for less than a quarter of STEM jobs, due in part to factors such as a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and workplaces geared toward traditional gender roles with less flexibility for family.

Although women still earn less than their male counterparts in these fields, they earn more than women in non-STEM positions. It’s unfair to completely attribute the gap to women’s career choices when women are often discouraged and face greater difficulties than men when trying to break into higher paying fields.

Mothers work less than fathers

Any parent knows that once you have kids, you’re working from sun up to sun down, and throughout the night. But again, yes, it’s true that women work fewer hours in paid employment than men do.

The biggest reason for this disparity is that it’s typically women who spend more time caring for children, and sick or elderly family members. With childcare costing more than college in most states, the lower-earning partner (usually the mother) is often squeezed out of the workforce. This not only hurts families in the short run, but the loss of retirement contributions and decrease in potential wage growth is something women pay for over a lifetime.

Mothers also face a biological hurdle: the need to recover from giving birth and to care for a dependent newborn. Paid maternity leave is not guaranteed in the United States – the only industrialized country that fails to support women workers in this way.

Once stay-at-home moms are ready, or can afford to return to work, they face additional hurdles that men do not have in their way. Mothers are less likely to be hired than men or childless women, and are paid less than other women when they return. But this form of discrimination has no justification – mothers with two children are actually more productive than their childless peers. They just aren’t compensated for it. Fathers, however, do tend to receive a bump up in pay after having children.

So let’s recap: Women are overrepresented in occupations that are traditionally underpaid, yet vitally important. They’re also penalized for taking time off to care for children, even though their childcare options are limited, or simply paid less when they return to the workforce. Can it get worse?

Yes. Much.

These quantifiable factors – occupational choices and parenthood – still don’t account for the entirety of the pay gap between men and women. Good old-fashioned gender bias plays a significant role, too.

A study that compared men and women with the same quality of undergraduate education, academic major, career choice, experience, marital status, etc. found that women were earning 12 percent less than men 10 years after college graduation. This disparity can best be attributed to gender discrimination still rampant in our workplaces.

Think we’ve hit bottom? Nope. There’s still room for things to go downhill from here.

While white women are earning less than four-fifths what their male counterparts earn, women of color fare much worse. African American women are earning less than two-thirds, and Latina women and Native American women are earning just over half. This means women of color have already been working for free for weeks, even months, this late in the calendar year.

What can women do about the gender pay gap?

1 | Ask for annual reviews

If your business or organization does not already conduct annual reviews, ask your employer to periodically meet with you to discuss your performance. A meeting of this sort will give you an opportunity to reassert your strengths and contributions, as well as identify any areas that may be holding you back. There is some evidence to suggest that women are less likely to ask for raises than men, so it’s essential to create the time and space to discuss your compensation periodically.

2 | Discuss salaries with coworkers

It’s considered impolite to discuss money in public, but this social norm also has the unfortunate consequence of leaving women in the dark as to whether or not they’re earning less than their male colleagues. Remember – a salary is not a reflection of your true worth, and money does not need to be the taboo subject it currently is.

While potentially uncomfortable, this move isn’t completely unprecedented – the salaries for government positions are typically public, and even private sector companies like Whole Foods have begun to publish compensation data, as well.

3 | Negotiate better

You might have heard the myth that women are bad at negotiating, preferring to demure rather than assert themselves. But one study showed that while women asked for less money for themselves in a negotiation, they negotiated just as aggressively as the men in the study when negotiating on behalf of someone else.

So if you need a little extra shot of courage before heading into a meeting with your boss to ask for the salary you deserve, remember that you aren’t asking just for yourself (even though you deserve it) – you’re negotiating on behalf of your entire family, including your children.

The gender pay gap hurts women and the families that depend on their salary. When we pay workers less than they deserve, the effects are serious. We have a long way to go to ensure that women are receiving equal pay for equal work, including integrating traditionally male or female dominated fields, strengthening our support of working parents through affordable childcare and paid leave, and addressing the discrimination that still exists in our workforce. In the meantime, women can keep asserting themselves at work knowing the facts are on their side.

Or we could just take the rest of the year off.

5 Great Halloween Movies With Girl Protagonists

Despite making up half the population, women and girls are often under represented in film. Watch girls take the lead in these female focused Halloween movies.

Women and girls make up roughly half of the world’s population, but you wouldn’t know it to look at movies. Research by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender In Media, (GDIGM), shows that male characters outnumber females by 3 to 1 in family films made in the US, a statistic that hasn’t changed since 1948. Even when girls are represented, they are more likely than boys to have unrealistic figures – such as extremely skinny waists and massive eyes – and less likely to take a leading role.

Children take in gender stereotypes in lots of ways. One of the things we can do as parents to help even things up is to ensure a balanced media intake. It’s important for all children to watch movies where girls take a leading role. Here are five suggestions for Halloween movies that do just that.

Coraline 

When 11-year-old Coraline Jones moves to a new area she thinks it’s boring. Then she discovers a secret door which leads to a world that seems better than her own, at first. The Other Mother wants to sew buttons over her eyes, but Coraline defies her in a creepy adventure that may also scare watching grown-ups.

Spirited Away 

On the way to live in a new neighborhood, 10-year-old Chihiro and her parents find themselves in a mysterious world. After her parents are cursed by a witch who turns them into pigs, Chihiro takes a job to try and help them. She meets many strange creatures; spirits, witches, and monsters. With the aid of new friends, Haku and the mysterious No-Face, she must find a way to thwart the witch and free her parents so they can return together to the human world. An enchanting, bizarre, and eerie film.

Maleficent  

Angelina Jolie is magnificent as the menacing Maleficent, a powerful dark fairy betrayed by a king. In revenge for his actions toward her she puts a curse on his baby daughter, but later regrets it. A dark retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.

Labyrinth 

Annoyed by her baby brother’s crying, Sarah makes a wish for the Goblin King to come and take him away. Unfortunately for her the Goblin King is more than just a character in a play she’s rehearsing. Sarah is plunged into The Labyrinth where she must find her way to the center and overcome frightening obstacles before she can rescue her brother.

When Marnie Was There 

More gently atmospheric than outright scary, this movie still has its spooky moments. It’s a beautifully animated film, in which outsider Anna goes to stay with her aunt in a sleepy seaside town and meets the mysterious Marnie. Marnie lives in a dilapidated mansion that everyone says is empty. Is she even a real girl? A beautifully haunting story of a strange friendship between two girls.

All children need to see entertainment that shows girls matter just as much as boys, yet the lack of girls and women in TV and film is so normal, most of us hardly notice it. You might not be able to control what comes out of Hollywood, but if you want your children to see that girls are entitled to take up half the space in the world, you can try to ensure that half the movies they watch have female leads.   

Why We Make Our Sons Watch Women’s Sports

Cheering on strong, fast, and powerful women is as much a priority in our house as Sunday Night Football.

As soon as my sons were born, the sports paraphernalia started trickling in; a soft basketball to toss around, a onesie embroidered like a baseball uniform. My husband talked excitedly about when the boys would be old enough to play t-ball and about coaching their basketball teams. Sports were a part of his childhood which he looked upon fondly, and he could not wait to share his enthusiasm.

Sports have always been a regular feature on our TV, but after the kids came along, I started to notice a change in what we were watching. There was a little less football, and a lot more women’s soccer. “Look, guys,” my husband would point out as our toddlers ran around the living room, “do you see the women playing soccer? Look how far they can kick the ball!”

I asked him about it later. “Well,” he replied, “It’s important to me that they see women in athletics, too.”

When you have young children, you’re tasked with educating them about the world. But more often than not, we teach them about the world as we think it should be, rather than as it is. As parents, we tell them to be kind and to share, even though we know that they will grow up and begin to see inequalities around them. We tell them boys and girls can be anything they want to be when they grow up, but eventually they will start to notice a pattern – the faces on the classroom poster of U.S. Presidents are all men, the pictures on our money are all men, the names they memorize in history class are mostly men. Their elected representatives, the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and sports heroes? Men, men, men.

With the Olympics, however, comes a unique opportunity to show children a different side to the story. When women take the field (or the track, pool, or court) they are not on the sidelines or mere footnotes to the bigger story. They are front and center showing the world that women do not have to be pretty, quiet, or demure if they don’t want to be – they can be strong, fast, and powerful, too.

This image is as important for our boys to see as it is for our girls. I grew up in the 90s, in the days of “Girl Power!” when parents told their daughters that nothing could hold them back. But then as the girls in my generation got older, we entered the workforce and still bumped into glass ceilings, were paid less than men for the same jobs, and realized balancing a career and family wasn’t always a simple task. Raising feminist girls wasn’t enough, it’s time to start raising feminist boys, too.

As it happens, our family life looks fairly traditional. My husband goes to work, and I stay at home to cook and care for the children. He enjoys watching sports, and I enjoy knitting while he watches sports. This is a balance that works for us, but we want our children to know that just because our family works a certain way, other families may look different and that is perfectly fine.

Children, however, have a tendency to normalize what they see and become skeptical of what is unfamiliar. So we try to give them new perspectives when we can. Watching women power down the track isn’t the only way to help familiarize them with strong women in leadership roles, but it certainly is a fun one.

I want my boys to grow up with role models of both genders. If girls jumping into the pool this summer can admire Michael Phelps and his world record number of medals, then my sons can look up to Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd when they step on to the soccer field. If we act like men’s sports are for everyone to enjoy, but women’s sports are just for young girls to watch, we reinforce the message that we have been fighting for centuries, that women are somehow inferior.

The truth is, even the athletic community has a lot of catching up to do in this area. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, which won the World Cup in 2015 were  paid $2 million, while a year before the men’s team was given $9 million despite losing in the round of 16. This summer, women will have fewer opportunities to win gold medals than men at the Olympics in Rio, which features 169 events for men and only 137 for women.

Women’s sports, however, do not deserve to be seen as second rate. Not only do they provide great entertainment, they inspire young athletes of both genders. When one of the Olympians competing this summer is a young woman who swam to Greece’s shore while pushing a broken down boat full of fellow Syrian refugees to safety, it’s laughable to think that women’s sports don’t have anything to contribute.

When my husband starts talking about signing the boys up for soccer next spring, his goals are not to win every game, or to start grooming a future pro (although, should it turn out that way, I’m sure he wouldn’t complain). Parents introduce children to sports as a way to teach them about the importance of being healthy and active, teamwork, and setting goals to reach. Women’s sports can teach these values to both boys and girls, just as well as men’s sports can.

So while college football and NBA basketball are still regular fixtures at our house, when we’re looking for something to do on a spring Saturday, we will happily take the boys to watch a college softball game. If my son asks me what hurdling is, I’ll search YouTube for “women’s hurdling” and show him the results. When the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team plays in Rio, you can bet we are all cheering them on.

The benefits to young women playing sports are numerous – it reduces the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, and depression. But I believe there are benefits to my sons as well, in seeing our family and, this summer, our entire country, cheer on strong women. I hope this will teach them that it is okay to root for and support people who might be different from them, and that doing so will cost them nothing.

As our boys grow up, I know that we have many conversations ahead of us about what it means to view and treat women as equals. I’m not even sure if this early exposure to women’s sports will end up being a game-changer. But I know this – last summer, as we watched the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team win game after game in the World Cup, I caught my son running furiously around the house, yelling, “I’m a lady! I’m a lady!”

“Hey honey, what do you think a lady is?” I asked him, trying to hide a giggle.

He stopped briefly and turned to me, “It’s someone who runs really fast,” he answered before taking off again.

“Yup,” I said. “That sounds about right.”

That’s the impression I want him to have for a good, long time.

Like a Girl

A maxi-pad commercial in the Super Bowl last night made me tear up.

You may have already seen the Always commercial from last summer called “Like a Girl” where men and women of all ages talk about what it means to “play like a girl.” It has over 54 million hits on YouTube. That one made me tear up too.

I teared up because it reminded me of my own frustrations playing and learning new sports as a girl. I was competitive. I wanted to do anything the boys could do, but better. I have been known to grab a boy by the hoodie and pull him to the ground after he beat me in a race. It was that bad.

I find my daughter shares the same frustrations. One day in the car she asked, “Mommy, how do you change the law? Because I want to change the law that only boys can play professional baseball.” She’s only six-years-old, yet she’s already frustrated by the limitations she feels as a young girl who loves sports.

It’s important to me that my daughter grows up with strong female role models. I never want her to think “playing like a girl” is a bad thing. I want it to make her proud to play like a girl, throw like a girl, and run like a girl.

This is why I get out on a snowboard or skateboard with her. It’s why I put her in skate clinics with other girls. It’s why I constantly look for videos or films with strong female athletes in them, so she will always know that playing like a girl is exactly what she wants to do. And every once in a while it’s nice to hear her say, “Look at my mom! She’s killing it!”