We’ve all heard the statistic that women earn 70 cents for every dollar that men earn. Many arguments are made to try and explain it away, saying that women opt out of the work-force during key career-building years in order to have children. But the data shows that when you control for that, women still get paid less for equal work.
This disparity was illustrated by the data released during the Sony hacking. Just yesterday Charlize Theron made news by negotiating a $10 million bump in her salary when she learned that her co-star (one of the dreamy Hemsworth brothers, which I can’t tell apart) was making much more than she was. And we all read about how it was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams got less points for American Hustle even though they’ve earned more Oscar nods and have starred in bigger-grossing films. But although that’s the fun story, the real shocker was that women throughout Sony earned significantly less than men. One big reason that’s possible? Salary secrecy.
Everyone that’s worked for a corporation knows that discussing your salary with your co-workers is a no-no. It’s frowned upon everywhere and banned outright in many places. Even if you managed to find out what your peers are making, it wouldn’t do you much good. You can’t go in to negotiate a raise by saying “I know Bob who has been here six months less than I have and has less experience than I do earns 15% more than I do.” Since it’s forbidden knowledge all that will do is get you and Bob in trouble for talking about it.
What’s the solution? End pay secrecy. When pay structures are transparent, like they are for federal workers and union workers, pay disparity shrinks significantly. Because it’s a lot harder to treat workers unfairly out in the open.
We may say, “Oh, boo-hoo, Charlize, cry me a river. Do you really need the extra $10 million?” Yes, she does, because she’s earned it and the only reason she didn’t get it in the first place was her gender. I, for one, applaud her move and hope it emboldens the females in the rank and file to demand their fair pay as well. And, while we’re at it, let’s contact our representatives and demand that they pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (which – shocker – Republicans have repeatedly blocked) so that everyone’s pay can be commensurate with their experience, knowledge and skill and not determined by their private parts.