Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Equal Pay For Women - The Gender Gap

Equal Pay
Equal Pay For Women - The Gender Gap
GUEST:Johanna Schiavoni, President-Elect, Lawyers Club of San Diego

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the federal equal pay act. It was passed back in 1963 when women were only making $.59 to every dollar that men earn. Now after all this time, women are still earning less than men. The figure now is $.77 to every dollar earned by men and that number has been missing for the last decade. What is still holding women back from earning their fair share? The lawyers club of San Diego was marking national equal pay day tomorrow. That is the day when women finally catch up to what men earned last year. I'd like to welcome my guest, Johanna Schiavoni, she is president of the lawyers club of San Diego. Johanna, welcome to the program. JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: Thank you for having me Maureen MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Every year we read here about women making less than men made but equal pay act has been on the books for 50 or so what's going on in the workplace that allows us to keep happening? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: Maureen it is an important question and there are a number of factors that this is attributed do but they can sort of be divided into two groups. There's still a lot of direct discrimination. There's also indirect discrimination and we know that there's directors commissioned because we see that the wage gap starts for women in their 20s coming right out of college in their first jobs women are earning on average 7% less than their male counterparts so this is not solely attributable to family causes and other people may think it's attributable to. That's directors commissioned based on the same education, the same skills, the same hours worked, women earn less. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is pay and equity affecting women across the board? As you say it starts early apparently but is it more prominent in certain professions? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: It really affects women across the board from the low end of the wage scale all the way to professional women. According to the wage project, women with a high school education over the course of their career over a 40 year career will earn $700,000 less than their male counterparts. I know that's a shocking figure. College-educated women will earn $1.2 million less over their 40 year career, and women with professional degrees, that's doctors, business to, lawyers, will earn $2 million less than their male counterparts. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When you get into these higher-paying realms, you think ofwomen sort of going in and maybe trying to negotiate a salary, does that not happened for women, or are the figures often to digest lower? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: As I mentioned there's direct discrimination there's also indirect discrimination. Some of this can be attributed to not having the information about salary differentials. Women simply do not know that they are being paid less. Some of it is also attributed to not negotiated in the same way. But, negotiation requires information. Information is power. So if one does not have access to the information, how can they negotiate? There are a couple ways to address the deficit in knowledge. You can research information on websites for example,, we recommend that people talk to career services offices at universities and also talk to peers in their industry to get a sense of what appropriate salary is for their skill level and going into negotiations is so important and if women are not comfortable negotiating they can participate in negotiating seminars to again equip themselves with the knowledge and power to go in and add that can advocate on their own behalf. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a little something on the subject of negotiating salaries. Sheryl Sandberg the CEO of Facebook recently talked about the differences in salary negotiation between men and women and that was at a recent Ted talk and here's a clip from her speech. NEW SPEAKER: A study in the last two years of people entering the workforce out of college showed that 57% of boys entering, or meant I guess are negotiating for salaries and only 7% of women. And, most importantly, then attribute their success to themselves and women attribute it to other external factors. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook and that difference in negotiating is enormous and she's talking about for first jobs out of college, the first job out of college. You just gave some advice to limit about how to sort of hold their negotiating skills, but I wonder, is this still happening, our women, young women still not being given the right advice as to how to enter the workforce and negotiate for the first salary? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: It is certainly one of the contributing factors, Maureen, to why we see the pay gap but I don't want to place all the blame on women themselves as we discussed earlier there's a fair amount of direct discrimination and then data actually shows that 40% of the pay gap today still attributable to it indirect discrimination there's also indirect commission which one component of that is not asking for higher salaries but there are other components. We don't have comprehensive paid family or physical medical leave in this country which puts us behind other well-developed countryside pay for either maternity or paternity leave for family leave and so there are a number of other factors that go into why women are paid less. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's talk a little bit about some of the aspects of the direct discrimination you are talking about.are the jobs that women traditionally take if you want to think about teachers that is, nurses, administrative assistants, are those which is fairly compensated, or are the wages depressed, are they lower than they should be because in terms of comparable work with a man who need the same amount of training, the same amount of degrees and so forth to do rules and what are traditionally male jobs? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: Yes, Maureen. I think some of that fields where women traditionally work are paid less than more traditional male jobs. However what is also astonishing is that 57% of college graduates today are women. And on average, women earn better grades than their male counterparts from college. So, when we see a pay gap for women and men the doing them coming out of college we know that it's not just profession, we know there is overt discrimination in salary. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it attributable to the fact that women tend towards jobs in the public sector as opposed to the private sector? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: Will we see the pay differential across all sectors and that includes public and private so I don't necessarily think is attributable to just public-sector jobs. We see this in private industry and of course there are some companies that stand out in trying to encourage workplace diversity and closing the pay gap. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As you said women work to an extent in a sea of ignorance here when it comes to what other people are making, or what is a fair rate of pay for a certain amount of job. Would you say that in general women are aware that they are making less? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: It's so interesting, Maureen, we heard a lot about the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act, but a lot of people don't know what the facts behind that, like that legislation was important. Lilly Ledbetter was paid over the course of her career significantly less than her male counterpart who earned more than she did, but she never knew that and she tried to file a lawsuit to sue for back pay, but the court said she could not do that, that her lawsuit was too late. So the legislation actually means that now each paycheck that is less and pays a woman less with all other factors being equal, each new paycheck is a new active discrimination so a woman could sue. But beyond those kinds of lawsuits we need more transparency. We already talked about information being power, so Congress right now is considering on the federal level the paycheck fairness act. There are two important components why we need this legislation. One, it would protect workers who want to find out in their workplace and talk to their colleagues about what they are being paid. Some employers have regulations that could that an employee could be fired if they ask for a salary information. The paycheck fairness act would protect workers who ask those kinds of questions from retaliation. The paycheck fairness act also would require employers to affirmatively demonstrate a reason for paying women less than men. There has to be a bona fide reason for the pay disparity either based on experience, knowledge, education but it cannot be based just on gender. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Isn't that true now, isn't that what the equal pay act was all about but it can be based on gender? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: It was below we see 50 years later his women are still earning $.77 on the dollar so we know that the regulatory solutions were not enough. I'm not saying that the whole solution has to come from laws but certainly we need to bolster the equal pay act and we need to do more. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We heard about from salaries but even Sandberg she's made some waves lately with her book lean forward about women in leadership jobs one of the points she makes is that women tend to allow their roles as mothers or even just wanting something to have children to make them less eager to take on big responsibilities at work. Would you say some of this pay inequality is, can be laid at the feet of women and their participation or lack of in the workplace? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: You know, boring rather than attribute it felt I'd rather look at the root causes and I think the root causes are what we talked about that there is direct dissemination and indirect discrimination in the workplace. So, educating women and also employers is really important in directing discrimination there are other components like implicit bias. Workplaces don't even realize that they are discriminating. Maybe they give more choice assignments to you and who are on the track for example in the legal field to make partner when women are not given the same opportunities to be introduced important clients if you don't know the important clients, you cannot build your book of business. And, those are messages that come along once career, so that kind of indirect this clinician, people are not even aware it's happening. It's Association bias. We tend to promote and give assignments and opportunities to feel people we feel more comfortable with so in the legal arena that can mean a big difference for building your book of business, so rather than saying that it is women opting out, is really about indirect bias and tearing the indirect bias is a really important step forward. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's estimated that women are making on average about $10,000 less a year than men how would we as a nation benefit if women actually did make equal pay to men? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: When you think about women at the lower edge of the wage spectrum that is an enormous amount of money. It means gasoline, it means groceries, it means healthcare, it means rent. $10,000 is a big deal and as we talked about over the course of the forty-year career it also inhibits women's ability to plan for retirement. If you are talking about a woman with a high school education who earned $700,000 less over 40 years that is real money. And planning for retirement simply becomes less in reach for women who are earning so much less than men. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how does it actually hurt women in the long term? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: Again, women cannot plan for retirement. With women outliving men, this is also another significant problem as we have an aging population of women in San Diego one of the poorest populations of women is elderly women and we know how vulnerable they are. At the end of a lifetime if they forget have not been compensated fairly they cannot save and care for themselves when they are elderly so this is a problem all across the age spectrum. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the equal pay act and there is another Bill. Where is that in Congress by the way? JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: The paycheck fairness act has been introduced a number of times and passed last year and 112 Congress but died in the Senate. It's been introduced this year in the 113 Congress. No hearing has yet been scheduled, but the good news is that there are 43 cosponsors in the Senate right now so it does have some momentum. Indeed even broader bipartisan support. On the house side in San Diego, two congresspeople who have not yet supported in our congressmen Hunter and Congressman Issa so constituents could call them and encourage them to sign on to the paycheck fairness act, the other three San Diego representatives have also supported them. Lastly, I think if constituents would like to recap they could write in to Reid's office and encourage them to call for a vote for closure in the Senate. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have the equal pay act we are hoping to move toward people who advocate equal pay are hoping to move toward the paycheck fairness act. What do you think ultimately will be the cure, the fix for this gap in women's and men's pay, obviously it's not going to come from legislation alone. JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: That's right. So I think about this in sort of three ways. Think about what organizations can do, I think about what business can do and I think about what women can do. With respect organizations they can publicize equal payday to their members and simply raise awareness about the gap. They can present salary negotiation workshops set up meetings with leaders, businesses can do things like conducting a workplace audit to see about their own internal salary numbers on pay equity. They can trade management that I was responsible for salary and promotion so they can understand the indirect and direct bias. And Microsoft in the legal field my field Microsoft in 2008 established a law firm diversity program they actually pay financial incentives to law firms that they hire who have a more diverse workforce. And bill more diverse time and have diverse attorneys work on their matters. Microsoft says they've seen a measurable increase in the aggregate number of hours worked by diverse attorneys on their cases since they instituted a policy. And then of course there are things that individuals can do. They should spread the word to their family and friends on social media. A lot of this again is information is power. They can research their own salary data and negotiate on their behalf and finally recommend they join a women's organization so they have access to the data and they can be part of a peer network and get support as they learn more and work and grow on their own behalf. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want everyone to know the letters club of San Diego will be holding an equal payday luncheon tomorrow we have information about that on the website and an awful lot about the statistics that you've been hearing are also on the I've been speaking with Johanna Schiavoni. She is President-elect of the lawyers club of San Diego and thank you very much. JOHANNA SCHIAVONI: Thank you, Maureen.

Equal pay for an equal job still appears to be out of reach for many women in this country. The federal Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963 when women made 59 cents to every dollar a man made. It was set up to prevent wage discrimination between men and women who are equally skilled and doing the same job. Today, some 50 years later, a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Tuesday, April 9th is Equal Pay Day. It marks the day a woman must work into 2013 to equal the pay a man made in 2012.

The Wage Project estimates on average, women earn $10,000 less per year than a man and that adds up over the lifetime. The organization reports the lifetime gap works out to be around $700,000 for a high school graduate, more than $1 million for a college graduate and about $2 million in lost wages for professional women graduates. This loss in wages also affects retirement and social security benefits.


Additional Resources

Equal Pay Act signed into law in 1963.

National Committee on Pay Equity website

US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Wage Project

US Department of Labor statement

AAUW Pay Equity ResourceKit

Equal Pay Day Leadership Luncheon