A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that female doctors in the United States make on average $12,000 a year less than their male counterparts. We're talking six figures here, but still, it's a trend we see in just about every industry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women would need a 65 percent pay increase, on average, to catch up to men. We're aware of the problem, but what's the solution?
Who is at Fault?
Is it a woman's fault that she doesn't get paid more? In the study of doctors' salaries, researchers found that men tend to be more aggressive in asking for more pay. Others point to the fact that women tend to take time off from their careers to raise their families, which may deter them from climbing the corporate ladder as quickly. Or that women often take lower-paying, more flexible jobs so that they can spend more time with their families. Neither are strong arguments, with more men now doing the same in their households.
Where the Government Stands
President Obama has shown his stance on the issue. He's been working to get the Paycheck Fairness Act approved by Congress to help those discriminated against fight back. Congress has not yet passed it.
Obama also declared April 20, 2010 the first National Equal Pay Day as a way to draw attention to the issue. Each year, Equal Pay Day falls symbolically on the date through which women must work to match what men earned the previous year.
What You Can Do
Aside from writing your senator about your support of equal pay, there are a few things you can do closer to home, especially if you are female.
First, take a look at your own salary. How does it compare to that of men in your office who have similar roles? Is there an obvious reason for disparity, such as your experience level? If not, sit down with your boss to discuss a wage increase. Don't use the "but Tom gets paid more" argument. Keep it rational and logical; make a list of the skills you've gained since your last pay raise, and make the argument based on merit. Pulling politics into the discussion probably won't get you anywhere, so avoid it if possible.
If you feel you're unfairly being discriminated against when it comes to your salary, look at the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, as well as your office's human resources manual, to see what recourse you have.
Participate in local events supporting equal pay. Many cities hold gatherings for National Equal Pay Day (which falls on April 9 next year). On that day, many people wear red to symbolize how far "in the red" women are in the wage war.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.