AAUW hosts Equal Pay Day

The group teaches women to work for equality in the workforce.

The MU chapter of American Association of University Women celebrated Equal Pay Day on April 20 to raise awareness about unequal pay for women in the workforce.

President Lara Montague said though many women don't receive unequal pay, the issue is still important.

"I think it's progressed to be more equal for women, but in no way would I ever say it is equal," she said. "We still make, I think, 70 cents to a man's salary."

Montague said laws, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, are a step in the right direction.

"We've made a lot of improvements with bills and other amendments to help women," Montague said. "But we definitely still have a long way to go."

If employees feel they are paid less than other workers, they must file a claim within 180 days. The Ledbetter law, passed in 2009, states every unfair paycheck employers give to employees restarts this 180-day filing period.

AAUW Treasurer Leticia Brown said it is also hard for black women in the workforce, who feel they are being paid unfairly.

"Not only are we fighting equal pay as women, but we're fighting for equal pay as African Americans," Brown said.

Montague said one of the reasons progress is slow is because women cannot legally view their co-worker's salaries.

"You have no way of telling, and really it's just that supervisor who's going to see that," Montague said. "So you don't know that you're being paid unfairly."

AAUW membership Vice President Carolyn Cianciolo said women should be more vocal about their concerns if they feel they are not being paid fairly for their skill level.

"You obviously are not going to start off with this amazing salary right away if you just started this job," Cianciolo said. "You're going to work your way up, but I think if you think you've proven yourself, I think there's no problem in saying something."

Montague said college students are in an environment where they can educate themselves about unequal pay for women.

"I think being on a university campus is the best advantage you can have to promoting issues and being an advocate and having activism in general," Montague said. "You can show so many people things they didn't know."

Montague said though women will not be able to find out their co-workers' salaries, they should conduct research before they approach their supervisor about increasing their own.

"You can look up, for your position or field, what the general pay is for that," Montague said.

She said researching is one of the best ways to collect information to ground explanations.

Brown also said conducting research about the workforce is a good way for women to keep themselves aware.

"You have to almost get out there because we aren't the type to be interested necessarily in money and finance," Brown said. "So you have to get out there in the work field."

MU AAUW held a $tart-$mart workshop last week to teach women graduating from college how to negotiate their job salaries and benefits. Montague said the chapter hopes to hold such workshops annually.

"Since I was a teenager working, I've always written down my hours, every job I've worked, in a little notebook," Montague said. "I kept it, so I know what hours I'm getting paid. I know what the rate is, so I know I'm getting paid fairly."

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