What’s a Woman Worth? was the topic of discussion at the Women For Women of Marathon County meeting Thursday, May 4th. The pay inequity gap women face leads to the retirement gap later in life.

Kathleen Marsh, a retired teacher and author, Kay Johnson a retired teacher and advocate for public school students and staff, and Joyce Luedke, a retired teacher and writer for Middle Wisconsin presented a Power Point Presentation based on research and a PPP done in 2017 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The discussions after the PPP were animated and lively as women shared their observations of a woman’s worth over the years.

We looked to the past and the issues women faced.

Many women, our grandmothers and mothers, were farmers while the husband held a job. Many of these women did not have the means to save for retirement and relied on their meager Social Security checks as they grew older—often living longer than their husbands.

Women worked in the factories, on the railroad, and joined the Armed Forces during WWII. The majority of them lost their jobs as the men came home.

Women who began their careers in the 1960’s were usually paid less than men for the exact same job. Men were seen as the bread winners and were paid more—hundreds to thousands of dollars more. This was true in education and other fields.

Women teachers lost their jobs when they became pregnant. Some found it difficult to get back into teaching after they had been out of the work force for a period of time.

Women faced challenges when the husband passed away leaving the woman to provide and care for young children.

Teenagers and women who were waitresses often faced abuse while on the job in the form of inappropriate touching by the male customers. They were often told to ignore the inappropriate behavior to earn more tips or quit.

Women faced discrimination when seeking promotions. There was a time in some occupations that “sleeping with the boss” was a way to keep your job or to get a promotion.

Employers discriminated against a qualified woman seeking a job or promotion in favor of a man in subtle ways:

Are you pregnant or do you plan to get pregnant? These questions implied that the woman will be taking time off and shouldn’t be hired.

The job requirements were vague.

Employers used “Keep pay a secret” as a way to keep employees from comparing wages and job responsibilities.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) signed into law by President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963 abolished wage disparity based on sex.

“The Equal Pay Act requires men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment.”

“Specifically, the EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.”

Women working today are facing similar barriers to workplace equality and pay equity. Many women were disheartened knowing the struggles they face are the struggles their mothers and grandmothers faced but on a much larger scale. Nearly 50% of the workforce in the U.S. are women.

Research done in 2017 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that the wage gap between men and women working full time is nearly 80%.

The incidents of sexual harassment at Fox News is a stark reminder of what women face today.

Looking to the future, what can we do to address inequality/inequity in the workplace?

What can we do to address the issues surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace?

What can we do to address the retirement gap women are facing and will face?

The suggestions women shared will be the subject of the next article: Affirming our Worth as Women.