Leah Farmer

Personal perspectives on faith, literature, and life.

Lilly & Leah

Since last night’s debate I’ve seen a lot of chatter on Twitter and Facebook about how the issue of women’s pay not being equal to men’s is a red herring issue and not an actual problem. Some women have even gone as far as to say that women with families SHOULDN’T make as much as their male counterparts. Others have stated that the reason for the discrepancy is that women haven’t been in the career market as long as men and it is just taking time to balance out.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lilly Ledbetter and the thousands of women who have taken up this fight through the years…let me put a face to this problem for you.

Until I took this job at Amazon, I have to my knowledge never made the same amount of money as my male counterparts. How do I know this? The answer is…a variety of ways including:

1. My male counterparts have told me what they make/made

2. I’ve hired male staff and been privy to their pay discussions…sometimes so close to my own pay that I’ve been embarrassed

3. I’ve been the person responsible for the budget and therefore have known the salaries and benefits of the people in my division

4. My supervisors have told me either explicitly or by agreement with my “guesses” that I’m not paid the same

Let me adds some clarity about the type of employee I am.

  • I’m 36, single, and have no children.
  • I have an undergraduate degree in Accounting and an MBA in Technology Management
  • I’ve been in the workforce for 15 years in a variety of positions taking all logical “next steps” (with the exception of my time at Gap)
  • I have NEVER turned down a promotion, an opportunity, or even a request for travel or additional workload
  • With the exception of Gap, I have NEVER had a job where I was taking over from someone else. I’ve always had to define as I go and feel confident that I’ve left every company in a better place than when I arrived.
  • I have never once asked for a raise but I have received raises and bonuses in part because the men I’ve worked for have realized that I deserve higher pay because of how hard I work and how much I give.

So…why was I not paid equally?
Because that is what is done. It is acceptable. It is expected. And companies KNOW they can get away with it.

Until Lilly Ledbetter (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/hr11)

I recognize that there are a lot of factors that play into the various statistics about women making less than men. But even when you account for life choices and shorter hours for some working mothers, there is no accounting for the decision by some companies to ASSUME that a woman under 40 will probably take maternity leave a time or two and therefore not promote her. I’ve also heard the argument about male dominated industries…which is a whole other topic about education and women…but again, even in industries with higher numbers of women, men often make more according to some studies. The standard quoted number these days is $0.77 for every $1.00 a man makes. Even when all the factors of hours, education, industry, and tenure are accounted for, researches can only account for about half of the $0.23.

Here’s what I think…
I think women have not stood up for themselves for a many years because we were taught it was impolite
I think we have been dismissed as a group when we’ve asked for attention on this matter
I think men have more opportunities for mentorship and (if the studies are correct) received benefit  for having children (“After all he has mouths to feed and you don’t” are actual words I’ve had spoken to me on TWO occasions.)
I think women of a certain age (and thank God I’m almost not that age anymore) are overlooked for promotion to higher ranking positions because there is an assumption that they’ll be taking time for maternity leave and maybe not coming back to work
I think other successful women often keep younger women down because of fear (this one is the saddest to me!)

All that being said…a woman CAN fight to earn what she is worth and to be paid what her male counterparts make.

This job at Amazon is the first time in my career that I feel confident that I am making what my male peers are making. I know this because I did my research on women at Amazon. I read every statistic I could find and checked out various job comment boards for a feel from women and men on equality. Furthermore, I know that Amazon has 16 female executives at the highest levels. Many of those women have built their careers here and feel that they’ve been valued and given many opportunities. Finally  I know I make a fair wage because I asked during the interview process. (Asking puts a company on alert that you might just be the woman who will use the Obama supported Lilly Ledbetter legislation should she find out she is unfairly paid.) The fact that neither my hiring manager nor the two HR people I met with blinked at the questions I asked about wages and culture as they relate to women, was the first time I’d felt comfortable with an answer. All of the research and responses I received make me much more comfortable that for the first time in my career I’m making what the men make.

So before you make snap judgements about women making a bigger deal out of this than is true or this being a “media” issue, do some research. Talk to some women you know in fields outside of your own (something else I’ve done over the years  and see if you don’t think that maybe…just maybe..it is good that there are men and women out there willing to fight for equality in this area.

2 Comments

  1. L

    not sure why I didn’t see this on my Reader earlier… excellent post.

    I think the arguments for unequal wages become increasingly ridiculous over time; and truly the difference should never have been placed making it obvious that these policies were/are created to keep women “in line.” which makes it especially painful to hear women defend the gap.

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