Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day - Honor them with Equal Pay!

I hope that all mothers out there have a wonderful Mother's Day. In honor of Mother's Day, and for that matter all women, Equal Pay is one of the best ways that we can support all the working moms out there. While there has been progress, we are still not there.

During my first semester as a Graduate Student at Duke, I took a class called Self in the World. The class is an introductory course that all Graduate Liberal Studies students must take. It is designed to re-acclimate students that have been out of the academic process for a while and exposes the students to a wide range of academic disciplines. As part of the course, we had guest lecturers during the semester and one of them was a Sociologist. Some of her recent work focused on the 2000 Census and shared histories of different groups of people, or cohorts. One of the topics of conversation was the changing role of women since World War Two and Equal Pay issues.

During the class conversation I asked the question, being the progressive I am and also as they say in the legal profession "Never ask a question you don't already know the answer," if women will ever achieve equal pay? Knowing that she is also a person that quantifies the information that she researches, her answer was no. The Feminists and Women's Rights advocates in the class were aghast! How could that be, and coming from one of their own? The simple answer, is biology.

Pre-20th Century, women had very few choices or say in the direction their lives took. Things began to change as women gained Suffrage in the early part of the Century. When World War Two came around, women were the ones left with the numbers to fill the void in the factories left by the men that went off to fight. As they say, the rest is history. From that time on, women have been a permanent fixture in the workforce and have faced sexism and gender bias as far as jobs and professions that have been open to them. While the ERA has help in a number of way, especially in shrinking the pay gap between women and men in the same exact job. The one thing that will always be a factor in the fight for equal pay is that women have to take time off for pregnancy and child birth. This was the point that our Guest Lecturer was trying to make.

While according to this one expert, who is also a woman, it is unlikely that women will every truly have equal pay. They might come close, but the blessings of motherhood are also the very thing that women have to make choices around concerning their professional growth. While this might seem unfair, it should not be looked upon as a disadvantage to any woman,but a reality of life that all women in western style democracies face. Time away from professional life to start a family creates gaps in employment. Depending on the employeer, it is totally subjective as to how they view time taken by women to start or grow a family. In my opinion, this is where the focus on Pay Equity should be. Working to eliminate misconceptions and stigmas associated with women who make the choice to start or grow their family will help close the pay gap even futher.

In the case of my wife and our family, she is the mother of my two beautiful daughters, earned her MBA between pregnancies and works full time in a very demanding job. In my family, she is the bread winner and she juggles the demands as well as anyone I know. I am proud of her and thankful for the millions of mothers and women who came before her to fight for the opportunities that she now has. Happy Mother's Day and let's continue to strive for Equal Pay.

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