The Path To Equal Pay – A History Lesson.

Before World Ware II, every job was sex segregated. During the war, women began filling jobs in the factories as part of the industrial workforce formerly filled by men. The War Labor Board deemed that they deserved the same pay for the exact jobs men were doing before they went to war. After the war, women quit the factory jobs to make way for the men.

Every year after WWII, some Congressman introduced a bill to require the same pay for comparable work. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. It prohibits sex-based compensation discrimination for employees performing equal work in jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. In 1963 Act was signed into law, every job in the United States was still sex segregated. Men and women were not working side by side at the same jobs in the same facility.

In 1964, before the technology revolution, employers placed “help wanted ads” in newspapers. Nearly every newspaper ran sex segregated ad, “Help Wanted Men” and “Help Wanted Women”. Despite legal challenges, the practice of sex-segregating jobs remained until 1973.

In 1971, the EEOC sued AT&T, the largest employer of women in the world. Every one of it’s jobs was sex segregated. They had difference applications for male jobs (they were blue) and female jobs (they were pink). The central issue that led to the $123M settlement was whether there should be affirmative action goals for men in operator jobs. With input from the National Organization for Women, a 10% goal of men in operator jobs was established. The sentiment of NOW was that as long as women are working in jobs that only women would take, women would never be free. This was the beginning of sex-integrated jobs in America. When that happened, women were paid the same as men performing the same jobs.

The Equal Pay Act was not a force for pay changes. It was not until Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the prohibition of discrimination in all aspects of employment, hiring, promotion, compensation, and termination, that men and women began to work in the same jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility, in the same facilities, under similar working conditions.

Are women being misled by comparable worth press reports? What the real gender gap in wages? It depends on what statistics you want to believe.

The first looks at the average pay of all women in all jobs compared to the average pay of all men in all jobs:

· Average pay all women/all jobs ¸ Average pay all men/all jobs = Difference of approx. 18 cents

The second looks at the pay of women in certain jobs compared to the pay of men in those same jobs:
· Pay of comparable women ¸ pay of comparable men = Difference of approx. 6 cents

The second example is a more accurate comparison of people in jobs with the same requirements. When narrowed down to comparisons of individuals in the same facility performing the same jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility, the differences can often be the result of factors such as years of experience or level of performance.

There is more information about compensation practices in The Big Book of HR, which devotes two chapters to the subject.


1 comment ()

1. Michelle Overton wrote:
Thanks for the historical picture! Not to mention the fact that women have been the child-bearers and often lost traction on their careers for the time away to have children and take care of them. It's a privilege to be a woman but difficult to see and feel the effects of the pay disparities.

March 12, 2013 @ 7:49 PM

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