Djcnor’s Weblog

Equal Pay – Obama Does It Right Again!

Posted on: January 29, 2009

When I was a scientist, it was usually true that when you got your own grant, when your research was funded, you got your own lab. I wrote a grant proposal and it was funded on the very first round, which almost never happens. But I didn’t get my own lab. “My lab” still consisted of a stretch of lab bench in the lab where I had been a post doc, where I still experienced demands for me to spend time furthering the goals of that lab rather than my own. I did get my own office though.

In that same department, there was a male from another lab who had never written his own grant or been funded on his own. He had his own lab.

The local newspaper somehow obtained access to the salary list for the institution I worked for and published it. The evidence was very clear that women of a certain title were being paid less than men with the same title. The professional women of the institution formed a group, and someone asked about my work.

I mentioned that I wasn’t yet in my own lab. “What? Isn’t Joe (not his name) in that department? He’s not self funded, but he has a lab. Why don’t you?” Suddenly space became available and I got my own lab.

When I was in college, the women’s movement was very young. It was bold to be an open member, but most women thought about the issues, thought about careers they had never before considered, and with their men, often worked out lifestyles they hadn’t before considered as well.

Time passed, and feminism was stereotyped in negative ways. Women stopped wanting to identify as feminists, though they certainly didn’t  give up the possibilities we had won for them. They did stop pushing for equal rewards. And of course, the issue was not mentioned at all, as I remember in the campaign.

But it seems that Obama does not intend to right only the wrongs that have been talked about. Good for him!

I do have one more suggestion on the point of pay discrimination. It’s about time companies simply had to deal with people knowing what other people in the same position, at the very least, are being paid. Discrimination cannot be fully eliminated until it until rate of pay stops being something that just isn’t shared among colleagues.

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