Equal pay: Um, yes, please.
The big problem, of course is that we don’t exactly know how to make equal pay happen. It’s already illegal to pay women less than men just because of their gender. But how do you go about changing the status quo that still shows women make less than 80% of what men do, for the same work?
Of course, just because no one solution is perfect doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to address the problem.
One way to fight the pay gap would be to enact something like the Paycheck Fairness Act. But there are other things we can do, too.
I’m a particular advocate of providing incentives for companies that encourage telecommuting. Full disclosure: I telecommute to my job—and it’s no secret that I love it. Telecommuting helps to address the “motherhood penalty.” Statistically, women who have children are paid less than women who don’t. (Men who have children actually get higher pay!) Childcare issues are less of a problem when you telecommute or have a flexible schedule. You don’t get penalized for having the audacity to pick up a child who’s sick at school, or to take a child to a doctor.
In West Virginia, telecommuting incentives would be especially helpful, for both women and men, and even more especially in rural communities where local job opportunities are scarce. Finding a way to help educated professionals stay here in WV rather than move away for better opportunities could help address some other problems this state has, too. The truth is that infrastructure investments such as high-speed internet access is something that all businesses find attractive, and would be helpful to existing small businesses and rural schools.
Another way to fight the pay gap is to address Family Leave. Families should not have to choose which parent stays home with a new child because both can’t afford the unpaid time off. Right now, most families will choose a mother to stay home with a child, because breast feeding is so healthy. That’s a reasonable choice in a bad system. A better, fairer system would be to allow both parents to stay home. Mothers and fathers both need time to bond with their children–and having that available to both parents means that women are less likely to be perceived as “saddled” with family responsibilities. It also means fathers can have the time to really enjoy those first fleeting weeks.