When I began my career, it was understood that men needed to make more money faster than women because men, “had different financial pressures,” or “were responsible for caring for a family” or “had certain expectations for themselves by certain ages.” The thought was that women would wait. We’d be patient, understanding… because we’re women and that’s what we’re good at, right?
Not this woman! Not the women who came before me. And, thankfully, not the women AND men ahead of me.
Today is Equal Pay Day, which the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) started in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned the previous year.
Unfortunately for millions of women, today is still not an equal pay day. I’m grateful this hasn’t been my experience, thanks in part to my own doing and in part to the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I’ve been blessed with the luxury of choice, while most women are not.
Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee voted to advance legislation that would strengthen protections for female workers and help close the gender wage gap. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), aims to advance women’s pay by prohibiting employers from requesting salary histories and preventing them from retaliating against employees for disclosing their pay. The bill also calls for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect wage data based on sex, race and national origin to better determine if employers are responsible for discriminatory practices. It will next go for a vote in the Senate.
Those of us with the luxury of choice must now choose to speak for those who do not have it -- speak with our votes, speak with our actions and speak with our power.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “it will take until 2059 for women to reach pay parity if change continues at the current pace. Black women would have to wait until 2119 for equal pay, and Latina women until 2224.” We simply cannot wait that long.
In my role at Allison+Partners, I work with my partners and colleagues to ensure pay gaps do not exist at our agency. I’m proud of that, but it’s a small piece. For those of us who can, we must choose the companies we work at wisely. Ask the right questions. Do the research not just for ourselves, but for others. If employers know the best female talent in the country simply won’t work for their organizations, they will be forced to address their shortcomings.
We have the power to hold our companies responsible, to hold our industries responsible, to hold our politicians responsible and to hold ourselves responsible.
Anne Colaiacovo is President, North America at Allison+Partners.