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Equal Pay Day – Time to Celebrate – Sort Of

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Equal Pay Day is Here

Equal Pay ActEqual Pay Day is here EVERYDAY for a growing number of women. Unfortunately, equality in salaries across the board is still missing.

Do you receive equal pay? Does a male in your company doing the same work get the same pay? Your answer is probably, “How would I know. No one talks about their salary.”

And it is this “don’t mention money” mantra that has made it so difficult to uncover and correct the inequality.

Call Me Naive (I was)

Equal Pay Quote from Susan B. AnthonyIn 1958, I landed my first job. To this day, I can feel the excitement of that “real job.” I couldn’t believe they actually paid me to go to work each day. I made $1.25 per hour and was absolutely thrilled. I did not get benefits in the package. Just the salary. I never even wondered if a male in a similar position got the same money. I was self-assured and wouldn’t have even imagined that I would be paid less than a male.

Negotiate, Really?

Equal Pay statement from Clara BartonFast forward 20 years. I had my doctorate and several years of work experience. A research. company asked me to serve as the director of a national information program (after writing the grant proposal, of course). The organization received an award for the program and they hired me as the director.

Fortunately for me, one of the senior women in the organization gave me great advice. She said, “When you go in to negotiate your salary, be sure you get as high on the published pay scale as you can.” “But why,” I asked. “Once I prove myself, I can ask for a raise.” She responded, “All future raises, no matter how long you work here, will simply be a percentage based on that initial salary. The higher that original number, the more money you will make.”

I took her advice.

Equal Pay statement from Debbie StabenowOf course, I didn’t know anything about negotiating a salary and benefits. Today, there are a number of programs to help women gain skill sets. Here’s one of them — called Start Smart — that is highly recommended. If Covid-19 has you looking for a new job, get online and educate yourself about negotiating your next salary.

Equal Work. Not Equal Pay.

You probably have your own story of pay inequality. Here’s Kendra’s:

“When working in marketing at IBM, I came up with an idea for two new magazines to better reach, and help expand, the company’s markets. I got the go ahead to take the magazines from initial idea through a detailed development plan and finally proof-of-concept first issues. Once both magazines were approved by management, I became the editor of one and another person, a male, was made editor of the other.

Equal Pay statement from Elizabeth Cady StantonSurprise. Surprise.

I learned much later that the male editor was paid more than I was.

Did he demand a higher salary when he was offered the position? If so, why was I never taught to demand more? Who mentored him? Why did someone not mentor me to demand more?

Was he offered more to begin with because he was a male and I was a female? If so, why did anyone think that was appropriate? I was a woman living on my own, supporting myself, making payments on a mortgage, financing a car, buying groceries and gas, purchasing professional clothing, etc.

I’ll never know the correct answer because I didn’t even know the right questions to ask.

And, of course, without questioning and demanding, I didn’t have a chance to get any of that ‘denied’ money.”

Lilly Ledbetter and the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Lilly Ledbetter: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’s Story

While Kendra didn’t have the knowledge to fight for denied pay, Lilly Ledbetter did and thanks to her determination, we have the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Here’s a link to the Congressional bill named for her.

Lilly Ledbetter says,

“…for 19 years, I worked as a manager for a tire plant in Alabama. … After nearly two decades of hard, proud work, I found out that I was making significantly less money than the four men who were doing the same work.”

She sued the company for discrimination in a lawsuit that eventually went to the Supreme Court. In a 5 – 4 decision, the court stood on the side of those “who shortchanged my pay, my overtime, and my retirement just because I am a woman.” The court ruled in favor of the law stating a person only had 180 days to sue after the first paycheck that proved the discrimination. But Lilly had 19 years of paychecks before she even discovered the discrimination.

Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay ActThe continued injustice caused her to turn to Congress to pass legislation stating that the 180-day statue of limitations resets with each new paycheck affected by gender-based discrimination. This gives women time, once they do find they are receiving lower salaries than male counterparts, to file claims.

Turn “Why?” into “Why Not?”

About 10 years ago, I was invited to a luncheon sponsored by the National Association of Women Lawyers. One of the presenters said:

“As a partner (finally) in my law firm, male partners often question my suggestion to hire or promote a woman or to have a woman take a leadership role on a case. Their standard response used to be, “Why?” That put me on the defensive as I always had to argue why the woman would be a better fit than a man. 

“Then I switched to responding, ‘Why not?’ That put the male on the defensive. He had to defend why it should not be a woman. Now, the men rarely argue with me when I suggest giving women the responsible positions that then entitle them to higher pay and future promotions.”

That was one of the most powerful presentations I had heard. Imagine, turning WHY into WHY NOT. It continues to influence me.

4 Equal Pay Takeaways

  • #1 Equal Pay Takeaway: Don’t be naive when it comes to your salary.
  • #2 Equal Pay Takeaway: Learn how to negotiate your salary and benefits.
  • #3 Equal Pay Takeaway: When you can, turn the tables. Don’t defend “why” a woman should be promoted or paid more. Make the male defend “why not.”
  • #4 Equal Pay Takeaway: Already getting a great salary? Help other women starting with your own family. Teach your daughter or granddaughter about the value of their work. Coach your sister and friends. Advise other women in your organization. It’s never too soon and never too late to strive for and receive equal pay.

Equal Pay Advice from Rosie the Riveter*


I definitely think a man should be paid as much as a woman.

Think about it. It’s only fair.

*Opportunities for better wages significantly increased for women during WW2.

Although probably not equal to what males had made in exactly the same positions, war work opened new jobs for women. A large number of women left low-paying jobs to work in factories where they earned skilled work salaries. A recent report says during the war, the average weekly wage for skilled work was $31.21. Given inflation, that would be about the same as about $427 per week today. Not great salaries in the early 1940s, but doors opened that had previously been closed. 

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Matilda ButlerEqual Pay Day – Time to Celebrate – Sort Of


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  • Jennifer - April 13, 2021 reply

    Timely blog. Thanks. I know I am being paid less than my male counterpart. I’m still trying to figure out what to do. This article has given me something to think about.

  • Matilda - April 13, 2021 reply

    Hi Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by. Best wishes to you as pay inequality is a big issue. If you haven’t already done so, try to find an internal support group. What is happening to you is probably happening to other women in your company. Group action is easier than going solo.

  • Abby - April 15, 2021 reply

    Wow. Thanks. I’ve been thinking I just needed to find the right company that believed in gender equity. I am starting to see that at least half the battle is up to me. Appreciate your personal stories.

  • Matilda - April 15, 2021 reply

    Abby. Thanks for stopping by. We’re all strong women. Sometimes we just need the courage (and support of others) to move forward.

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