The Equality Issue No One Talks About

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In today’s economy, a woman is paid seventy-nine cents for every dollar a man makes. That difference – the extra twenty-one cents males are paid for having a Y chromosome – is called the “gender pay gap.”

One of the core ideals of the United States is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. The idea is to give everyone the same tools, then it’s up to the individual to achieve what he or she can with them. Today, only white males (like myself) are granted the full set of freedoms that our country supposedly gives everyone.

The gender pay gap has existed ever since women entered the workforce after World War II. In the 1960, women were paid forty cents less than men. That means in the last fifty years, we have cut the gap by a measly twenty cents.

If women aren’t given the same opportunity that men are to make money, how can the U.S. brag about freedom and equality for all? For the U.S. to continue as the beacon of democracy and fairness we love to think of ourselves as, fixing the gender pay gap ought to be a top priority.

The question remains: how do we fix the gap? A good start would be outlawing pay inequality, but the U.S. has already tried that. In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay act with the goal of “equal pay for equal work.” The law did create some success, as the twenty cent decrease in the pay gap since 1960 demonstrates.

However, the U.S. government does not have the ability to check the salaries of every company in the US for pay equality, so simply stating in law that women and men will be paid the same does not solve the issue.

A simple solution that would close the gap is a ban on negotiation for salaries. Men are, statistically, better negotiators than women. Fifty-seven percent of men ask for higher salaries than what is offered to them, but only 50% of women do the same, according to a Princeton study.

As a result, men start with higher salaries than women, so even if pay raises are the same for both genders, men make more money. By banning salary negotiation, starting salaries would be the same for every new employee at the company. Men would also benefit – not all males are comfortable negotiating, so a ban on salary negotiation would level the playing field for males as well.

Although most of us at Carrboro High School have never had to negotiate for a salary, almost all professional fields have salary negotiation at some level, meaning a good amount of CHS students will encounter it. The practice is antiquated and unfair – being a good negotiator does not mean you will be a good employee.

The issues that lead to discrimination are often deeply rooted in institutions and have no easy solution. The gender pay gap follows this trend. Banning salary negotiation will most likely not end the gap, but it will almost certainly close the difference between male and female salaries, pushing us closer to fulfilling our promise of equality and freedom for all.

Freshman Jordan Smith and Junior Chris Hodge represent the pay gap. Photo by Mireille Leone; photo illustration by Sofia Dimos
 

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