Dancing to Equal Pay

04/12/2011 10:17 am ET | Updated Jun 12, 2011
  • Linda Hallman Executive Director, American Association of University Women

Sometimes, all you can do is throw up your hands and dance. So that's just what the American Association of University Women (AAUW) did. We brought a crew of members and supporters, some music and choreography -- and even a bit of attitude -- to the National Mall for a flash mob on April 2. The event, a joint effort with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, marked a joyous and inspirational kickoff to our Equal Pay Day 2011 events and got us geared up for another year of fighting pay discrimination.

AAUW has been on the front lines of the fight for fair pay for decades. A woman still earns, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart. And while women in the District of Columbia earn 88 percent of what men there make, in West Virginia, Utah, Louisiana, and Wyoming, women don't even earn 70 percent of what their male counterparts make. The pay gap affects women workers of all ages, races, and levels of education. This isn't just your issue, your mom's issue, or your daughter's issue. It's an issue for American workers across the country. It's an issue for people just trying to support their families and provide the best for them.

We need look no further than a recent Supreme Court case for evidence of how discrimination is common. The women employees in Wal-Mart v. Dukes have alleged gender discrimination in pay and promotion policies and practices in Wal-Mart stores and are fighting to move forward as a group in what would be the largest class-action civil rights suit in the nation's history, comprising approximately 1.6 million female Wal-Mart and Sam's Club employees. Unfair pay is a real-life situation that happens daily but too often goes unnoticed.

This year, Equal Pay Day is commemorated on Tuesday, April 12. AAUW hosted a Capitol Hill luncheon on April 11 to discuss gender pay differences in law, engineering, academia, and public relations. We also released our new guide to pay equity, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, a commonsense handbook that provides answers to some of the most common questions about the pay gap.

Last November the Paycheck Fairness Act was narrowly defeated in the Senate after it passed the House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan majority. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a comprehensive piece of fair pay legislation that would update the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes, strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination, and prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages. So we're starting fresh as the bill is reintroduced by urging members of Congress to take a stand for fair pay. The first thing you can do is to find out how the pay gap affects families in your state and take action.

Although the government will ultimately have to decide to enforce pay equity, we can make sure our support and the impact of pay inequity are known. While you're working hard to make equal pay a reality, keep your dancing shoes handy. The real party has yet to happen, but it will.