When my son was born, I made the tough decision to leave my professional life and focus on raising our family. Even though I had worked hard for my degree and was at the top of my game in my field, the pull to be a part of my growing family’s everyday life in an involved, hands-on basis was stronger. Because I worked as a registered nurse, I told myself that I’d only be gone for a few years and that it wouldn’t be that hard to get back into the game. My family needed me to take on the responsibilities of the home front, particularly since my husband’s job demanded nearly twice as many hours a week than my job did at the time our son was born. It just made the most sense for our growing family.
Fourteen years later, I haven’t returned to my job as a registered nurse, because as it turns out, a woman’s career takes a massive blow when she decides she wants to focus on her family. Even in 2017, a woman has a difficult time not only resuming her career after having children but also recouping a fair, competitive salary. The gender pay gap is alive and thriving in today’s job market, folks, and mothers are taking the brunt of this giant financial-fuck-you to women everywhere.
And science says I’m right.
According to a study released by National Women’s Law Center, the wage gap exists for mothers at every education level. Their research shows that “mothers working full time, year round outside the home are paid just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, a gap that translates to a loss of $16,000 annually.” That is a lot of freaking money.
The study goes on to state that the gender wage gap exists for women across all educational levels, races, and occupations. Basically, white, non-Hispanic men are raking in the cash, hand over fist, while women in all race categories are overworked and underpaid. Are you feeling ragey? Because I am.
Hey, 2017, the 1950s called. They want their patriarchy and misogyny back. And also? Start paying us equally, assholes. Seriously, how is it that in this modern age we are still paid less than men for doing the same job with the same qualifications?
An article in the New York Times points to the fact women are still the ones having babies, and as a result, women suffer the most career detriment during their childbearing years. Limited access to quality child care and male partners who are paid more coupled with the 1950s notion that has women still doing the majority of household chores, whether they work outside of the home or not, puts women at a majorly unfair disadvantage when it comes to closing the gender pay gap.
That’s pretty goddamned depressing if you ask me.
Some experts say that, at our current pace, women are on target to close the gap in 2152.
That’s 135 years from now.
You must be fucking kidding me.
So how do we close the gender pay gap this century?
Well, like the patriarchy, the solution is systemic and complex, but changes need to be made within the corporate environment. Companies need to offer paid medical leave that allows a woman to recuperate properly after having a child (so that she can come back to work well-rested and ready to focus on the demands of her job), and companies need to put the kibosh on pushing their employees to work far beyond their required 40 hours. The always available, on-demand schedules do not work for someone who is forking out major cash for child care and is likely required to pick their children up before 9 p.m.
We have to demand that our lawmakers place an emphasis on quality, effective child care for women in the workplace. The playing field, as it stands, favors white men who have the luxury of heading off to high-paying jobs while their female counterparts struggle to balance career aspirations, marriage, and child responsibilities. And hey, guys? You can open your mouths too. We need all hands on deck to solve this crisis. Speak up — your silence is deafening.
Before you completely lose hope, my fellow feminist badasses, there is a tiny sliver of good news. Bloomberg reported that although women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields make 89 cents on the dollar compared with men, women architects and chemical engineers actually lead the pay grade in those categories, albeit by a tiny margin. And I do mean tiny, but progress is being made in these important fields, and we need to keep that momentum going — and speed up the damn process.
When you realize that women are paid less in every field and every state in the country, you get pissed. Or you should get pissed, and if you don’t, well unpack your sexist biases, please. The numbers are disheartening, for sure, and it can feel like an insurmountable uphill climb in an already suck-ass time for women, but we can’t back down, ladies. We have to focus our efforts towards holding our employers accountable now.
Because 135 years is just too damn long to have to wait for financial equality.