On Monday night, the 2012 Paycheck Fairness Act was shot down for the fourth time by the US Senate, in a vote drawn down party lines.
My color-commentary summarization of what the 2012 Paycheck Fairness Act would mean for both employers and employees, is below:
A favorite quote I found in the press on the matter: Kelly Ayotte, a Republican senator from New Hampshire, said that she voted against the law because she worried it would prohibit merit-based pay. Meritocracy inhibitor. Right. The employment policymaking equivalent to the dog ate my homework.
The complete text of the legislation, is here. The first page at that link—the legislation's summary—is what I screencap'd for the above JPG.
"As we’ve discussed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was an important step forward when it comes to combating discrimination, but it was also narrowly focused to address a specific problem: giving victims of discrimination access to the courts for legal redress. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a broader measure.Republicans have responded that they endorse the idea of equal pay for equal work, but in recent years, much of the party remains opposed to policymakers’ efforts to do something about it, fearing what they call “frivolous lawsuits” on unfair treatment in the workplace."
Why This Matters: Libertarians, Listen Up!
The evidence pointing towards the Paycheck Fairness Act's necessity is solid, un-deniable, and in my opinion—in simply how simple the legislation is. Read it, it is bewilderingly simple.
While this decision was likely being made, I was glued to watching Ken Burns' documentary on the Roosevelt family. One of the commenters—in discussing Teddy Roosevelt's work that drove momentum towards FDR's 1938 Labor Fair Labor Standards Act—made a statement that resonated with me a lot: "Capitalism needs a counterweight. That counterweight, is Government."
In reference to Teddy Roosevelt's groundbreaking work against monopolies and favoring worker-rights, this was spot-on. Personally, I still believe that to be a solid value in areas concerning human rights—especially given the widening gap with income inequality, and how greedy American culture is moving towards being. A discouraging reality that's transpired in the decades since FDR however, is that all things concerning the US Federal Government have slowed-down to the pace of Siberian molasses. From streamlining existing practices and offices, to creating new things, to making budget cuts—and agnostic of party interests—all Federal solution paths are tortoise sprints, at best.
For those new to the issue and honestly curious to learn more: a question this NYT piece highlighted that I found myself asking as a kid, being the daughter of a social worker mom and a CEO dad, was this: "Are women paid less than men because they choose to be, by gravitating to lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work?" Nope. Abundant research has proven that in industries such as Finance, Law, and Medicine, the disparities exist a-plenty. More recent research also offers a darker view into pay disparities between men and women as being not just a problem of unconscious employer bias, but also deeply engrained in systemic opportunity disparities between race, age, and social classes.
It really is complicated. It really isn't getting better. We really do need to do something. A lot of somethings.
In The Meantime
Looking towards non-legislative solutions, a paper by Claudia Goldin suggests "The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours. Such change has taken off in various sectors, such as Technology, Science, and Health, but is less apparent in the corporate, Financial, and Legal worlds."
Then of course, there's the wealth of hotly debated solutions proposed in Sister Sheryl's ode to feminism, Lean In. Menfolk, take on more domestic responsibilities, and Women, buck Impostor Syndrome to become stronger negotiators & take-on the glass ceiling—and take no prisoners while doing it. The counter-arguments to Sandberg's recommendations tend to gravitate towards the sentiment "WTF, the SYSTEM needs to change—get THEM to take on that challenge, NOT US!" Of course, the author (and a personal heroine) bell hooks states it far more articulately in her article Dig Deap: Beyond Lean In.
One of the neatest things the Paycheck Fairness Act (again, what this article laments having just being shot-down) would institute, is an update of today's EEO-1 reporting—that currently collect data on employee race, national origin, and gender—to also include pay. Likewise, to "make accurate information on compensation discrimination readily available to the public". That will be huge, in exposing opportunities for all businesses to do better.
In the private sector, we can all step-up our game(s) too, by volunteering much of this information for public disclosure—and doing so neatly, without much fanfare, and with self-initiated corrective action to follow. EqualTogether is my own contribution towards making that happen, and assuming all of us in the Tech sector can rally-round this opportunity of self-initiated disclosure, we can throw the door open-wide to the rest of the private-sector world—and as Uber and Airbnb have already done, prove regulators wrong by doing right on our own. Yes, that excites the hell out of me.