Juxtapose: I woke up this morning and NPR did not even mention that today was Equal Pay Day–the day when US women finally have earned the same amount as men in 2011–they had to work 3.5 months longer to do it. WITH: Dancing with Gloria Steinem on Saturday night.
Last Saturday night the legendary Gloria Steinem spoke to 300 plus women physicians and medical students at the gala dinner of the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Medical Women’s Association. She spoke about the serious plight of one of the world’s biggest businesses, the slave trade and human trafficking in women and children. At once sobering, and then again a wake up call. There is more to do. Women in the comfortable US need to be ever vigilant in bringing forward not only an awareness of the world wide horrors promulgated against women, but also the promotion of a basic paradigm shift in the way women are treated in all arenas. We cannot afford to disenfranchise, subjugate or waste the talents of half the population of the world.
With her formal presentation over, I quickly jumped to the mike. “Gloria,” I said, “how do we bring the message to the upcoming generations? How would you, a woman of the media, campaign the medical students and educate them on the fact that gender issues are (unfortunately) relevant to them?” And she answered, “You are doing it right here, right now. Keep talking. Keep up the conversation.”
And so I do. At the risk of repeating myself over and over.
The coincidence of equal pay day with an historical visit from Ms. Steinem on our 97th annual meeting of the American Medical Women’s Association should not go unnoticed. While it would seem that these two “injustices” (pay gaps and human trafficking) are disproportionate in their seriousness, I hope you will come to agree with me that their importance is equally worthy of serious attention and quite related.
On April 16, we are once again reminded that women who work outside the home have to work 3 1/2 months longer than their male counterparts to make the same annual salary. Surprised? I hope not. Are you as tired of hearing about this as am I? I hope so.
No matter that we are armed with data, the will to change, and a legal system designed to redress the wrongs we all might face. Data no longer persuades–we have become jaded. The will to change is eclipsed by everyday life. And our legal system is badly broken.
We have made so little progress on the single most important issue I believe women face–equal pay for equal work. It is definable and yet not correctable. I place no value on the symbolism of Prez Obama signing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first official bill to sign in his presidency. Yes, it restored the horrendous mistake of the Supreme Court, but the Prez and the democratic house and senate could not pass the next step, the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Yes, I have come to believe that money is the most important issue. Devaluation has deep and insidious negative effects. Without financial resources to live our lives the way we want, we will always be unnecessarily dependent on a man to eat, clothe and house ourselves and the children we bear. AND, we won’t have the extra disposable income to affect change on the political or social scenes–no matter your political persuasion.
Women physicians continue to be paid significantly less than their male counterparts coming out of residency even controlling for specialty, hours worked, geographic locale, and dozens other possible explanatory factors. Why???? We devalue ourselves more than any other professional group. Why???? Because we are much more sensitive to the competing roles we have: service to humankind vs. our rights to be paid well for our highly developed skills,lifelong commitment to further our knowledge for patient benefit, and our availability day or night for the needs of others.
So even our most highly trained professionals, women physicians, cannot manage to close this stubborn pay gap. So we struggle to fund the grants, the programs, the rescue missions for women enslaved, and many, many other worthy causes. Don’t let this day go by without doing something substantive to improve the lives of women (or a single woman) in any way you think appropriate. Even if it is just passing along this “conversation” to your friends on face book so they can agree or not. Thanks.