Equal Pay Day marked at MTU
HOUGHTON — Women earn on average 83.1 cents for a dollar a man makes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Copper Country League of Women Voters, Graduate School, and Institutional Equity passed out pamphlets and snacks on the Michigan Technological University campus Tuesday to commemorate Equal Pay Day. The shifting date marks the point into the next year a women would have to work to earn the same annual salary as a man.
This year’s was on March 15 — just over a full month earlier than it was 10 years ago.
“Hopefully we’ll be out here in February or sooner next year,” said LWVCC member Faith Morrison. “Eventually we’ll be out here just celebrating equality.”
Being on the Tech campus, they emphasized the gap in earnings for STEM occupations. Those gaps show up even a year after graduation, where women make 7% less even after controlling for factors such as major, occupation and marital status, according to the American Association of University Women. That amount compounds over time, said LWVCC member Barry Fink.
“Over a career, that can mean a $450,000 loss of earnings,” she said. “That affects your retirement income, it affects your whole family. It’s not just a women’s issue, because men are part of families that rely on women’s incomes, too.”
Fink said she thinks the gaps are a product of discrimination.
“They do it because they think they can get away with it,” she said.
Gaps have largely closed for graduates in fields such as health care, education and humanities. But AAUW figures from 2012 showed gaps remaining after one year in areas such as engineering (88%), business (84) and computers and information sciences (77%).
The fields are ones where women have traditionally been underrepresented, said LWVCC member Faith Morrison, who was the first female chemical engineering professor at Michigan Tech.
“When women are present disportionately, the pay is low,” she said. “When women go into a field, they can actually bring the pay down, because people are like, ‘Well if a woman can do it, I guess I can pay less,'” she said.
Fink advocated for the Paycheck Fairness Act to become law. The federal bill would ban companies from forcing employees to waive their rights to disclose pay, and make employers prove that wage discrepancies stem from legitimate job-related factors. It passed the U.S. House in April 2021.
Some students thanked them. Others brushed it off, which Fink found discouraging.
“They might not need to know about it today while they’re still in school, but it will very shortly be a reality in the work world they’re going to go into,” she said. “And the way to address it is for individual women to stand up for themselves in their negotiations about pay and know that they’re entitled to be equal to their male counterparts.”