Today is the day. If you are a woman you will now effectively be working for free until the New Year. Congrats. #EqualPayDay will trend on Twitter, women will bemoan the fact they are valued less than their male co-workers, and a minority of men will scratch their heads in confusion.
Various reasons will be given to explain that although equal pay has been enshrined in law from almost half a century, it still is not a reality for a lot of women. There will be the ‘Motherhood Penalty’ and the idea that many school girls do not pursue careers in STEM areas because they are seen as masculine or male dominated. Our Twitter feeds will be jam-packed full of articles about how to progress as a career woman. We will be warned about the career-killing mistake such as offering to make a round of coffee/tea. We will be told not to age, yet not to look to fashionable unless we want to be seen as frivolous. We will be advised from multiple different angles on how to ask for a raise (without seeming bossy or assertive) or go for that promotion (without looking too ambitious – because god-forbid a girl wants to reach the top.)
We may read a few with catchy headlines, mull it over as we grumble at our bank statements – then we will move on. Ready to do the same next year.
Equal Pay Day, from the articles I’ve seen at least, seem to recommend a fine and exhausting balancing act to progress. And a focus on the individual. Which to me is a problem.
While I hope the women reading the articles are inspired, it is not enough if only one woman in a company decides that this year; she will work her ass off and secure the promotion or feel confident enough to ask for a raise that she knows is overdue. For Equal Pay Day to be a success it needs a unified front. You may not feel in a position to ask from a promotion yet, but if you know a woman in your company who is brilliant at her job let others know. Obviously don’t go round recommending promotions if that’s not your position to do so – but in the next meeting, make a point of congratulating her on sealing the deal, or thanking her for the effort she put into a project.
Tell your friends, daughters, and relatives how amazing they are – not just how good they look. Empower them to feel that they deserve equality. Highlight the amazing work they do, or the talent they excel at.
If you find yourself being trolled or mocked by people that claim women would be paid more if they worked harder, ignore them. If you feel the need to say something, remind them that equality is in everybody’s interest – if your wife is earning more money to be on par with her male co-worker, your household as a whole will be better off. Simples.
Many an article will tell you not to be too nice, if you want to reach the top. Though I may not be a high-flying CEO I dare you to defy it. Celebrate Equal Pay Day, and continue fighting for equality by empowering others to believe that they are worth it. It doesn’t matter if you are young with a passion for mini-skirts, or if you have ten children with low immune systems. If you have the same skills, experience and work the same number of hours – you deserve it.