In Episode 305 of Mad Men, Peggy Olson shows up at Don Draper’s office with a serious matter to discuss. She sits down across from him, folds her hands, and begins:
She’s thankful for her meteoric rise at Sterling Cooper, and for Don Draper’s hand in it as her boss cum mentor. But her success is not enough. Peggy is still making less money than her male co-workers. Something has changed though, and she believes she now has a powerful weapon to protect her from pay discrimination: she has legislation.
“I don’t know if you’ve read in the papers,” she says, “But there’s a law now that says men and women who do the same thing will get paid the same. Equal pay.”
Peggy Olson and I are about the same age. And Peggy Olson doesn’t get that raise she deserves because, like me, she works in a system where she is not protected by our current equal pay legislation. But for all of the similarities between us, there’s one big difference: Peggy Olson is living in 1963. Somehow, 47 years later, we’re fighting the same battle.
Women have made tremendous strides in the workplace since 1963. We now equal men in the workforce, outnumber them on college campuses, and act as breadwinners or co-breadwinners for 2/3 of American families. But like Peggy Olson, that success has not been adequately represented in our paychecks. American women currently make 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man.
The current wage gap between men and women who are employed full time is $10,662.00. And ladies, there’s no way to escape it. Think you’re on an equal playing field fresh out of college? According to AAUW, one year out of college, women are already making less than their male colleagues. After ten years out of college, women earn 69% as much as men. Did you choose a traditionally male or high-paying field? Data shows that there is no college major or field that will allow you to avoid the pay gap. Have you worked for years but recently become a mother? Be forewarned, motherhood comes with a price: mothers, on average, make less than women without children.
What would your life be like with an extra $10,662.00? What kind of retirement could you look forward? How would your budget look with $10,662.00 less of student loans? Or $10,662.00 to put towards a home for your family? Could that money help you go back to school? Could it let you start a family earlier? Could it alleviate the mind-bending stress of debt, bills, and a recession with no clear end in sight?
I suggest you ask yourself these questions and really think about the answers. And then I suggest that you do what I did after completing that exercise: get angry. And take that anger and be like Peggy Olson: Stand up for the equal pay you deserve.
Okay, so you can’t march into Don Draper’s office. But there is something you can do. This Equal Pay Day, urge your Senators to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act!
The Paycheck Fairness Act is a much needed update to the Equal Pay Act that would create systems and tools to offer women legal protection from pay discrimination. This important legislation, supported by MomsRising and many other organizations, would prohibit retaliation against workers who discuss or disclose pay information, and would create stronger incentives for employers to obey the Equal Pay Act. Tell your Senators to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Lets work towards a world where our daughters don’t have a Fair Pay Day, and where the Equal Pay problems that faced women in the 1960s don’t feel relevant. This Fair Pay Day, lets celebrate by asking our Senators to work hard to make it the last Fair Pay Day. Support the Paycheck Fairness Act today!