It was Equal Pay Day. And instead of paying attention during an international relations lecture, I was passionately retweeting the White House.
“‘There are commentators out there saying that the pay gap doesn’t even exist … It’s not a myth, it’s math.’ — President Obama #FairFutureNow,” tweeted President Barack Obama.
President Barack Obama signed two executive orders recently. One, according to CBS News, “will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries, while the other will mandate that the Labor Department collect data on the compensation for federal contract workers, organized by race and sex.”
My first thought was, who could possibly disagree with this? It seems simple: President Obama wants to close the pay gap and create a fair work environment.
But when I looked into the topic, I realized the issue was far more complex — something that definitely cannot be summed up in 140 characters or less. So here I am, breaking away from Twitter to express my thoughts on the pay gap war.
The backlash to President Obama’s recent actions has unsurprisingly come from conservatives. But the criticism being aimed at him has no merit.
Regardless of my own political affiliation, I can understand when people disagree with our president over controversial issues such as as abortion or gay rights. These are emotionally charged topics, with proponents and opponents coming from various religious upbringings and touting vastly different messages.
I can also understand when people squabble over immigration reform or defense spending. These are issues that have been widely contested for ages, and though I have my own reservations about each topic and my own strong opinions, I can see both sides of the coin.
But in the case of equal pay, I’m shocked. Where’s the partisan for not wanting equal pay? Where’s the mathematical or economic one? The answer is easy — it doesn’t exist. There’s no reason for this type of anger when the president is making moves towards equality.
Admittedly, there’s more to the issue than what we see at the surface. Some critics dispute the statistic that a woman makes 77 cents to a man’s dollar. Reporter Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner called this a comparison of apples to oranges.
“It compares female nurses to male lawyers, female secretaries to male economists,” Schow wrote. “When you control for occupation, college degree, experience and life choices (like women working jobs with flexible hours to care for their families), that wage gap virtually disappears.”
It’s also reasonable to say that women might be making less than men because they are less inclined to negotiate their salaries, a fact supported by Forbes, NPR and many other publications (in fact, Harvard Business Review maintains that only 7 percent of women ask for raises).
But regardless of how big the gap is or why it is there, we cannot deny that it exists. So, it’s time for us to address it.
In situations like this, it’s necessary to put party differences aside and realize President Obama’s executive order is a critical component in solving the bigger issue. Granted, his one action will not make all gender issues disappear forever, but no one cannot deny that it’s a step in the right direction.
For one, it’s a preventative measure. Employers, with the thought of a criminal punishment looming above them, would not even arguably think of paying their female employees less than their male employees.
Secondly, the executive order has brought women’s issues center stage in the United States. It’s practically become an antiquated topic. Who, after all, really sits down and says, ‘We’ve got to look at women’s issues when there are other problems in the world?’ It’s a rarity. Thus, it’s refreshing to see the president addressing this issue and finding ways to ameliorate it.
So in cases like this, it’s unreasonable for conservative voices to come out and make statements accusing the Obama administration of being “all talk.”
With Senate Republicans blocking legislation as sensible as the Paycheck Fairness Act, it’s time to hold our legislators accountable for their actions. We can’t expect any real progress to be made when our legislators are too focused on protecting their party reputations.
Republican Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, for example, made a string of statements recently opposing President Obama’s actions.
“… For women across America, it’s not just about equal pay,” Rodgers said in a statement. “It’s about achieving a better life. And the Republicans are acting on solutions to make that happen.”
This kind of rhetoric takes the spotlight away from the real issues, yet again dividing the parties on a topic as nonpartisan as women’s rights.
It’s time to come together and support the president on his endeavor to close the pay gap and promote equality. Because let’s face it, whether you like him or not, we can all agree that our mothers, our sisters and our friends deserve equal pay for equal work.
And until that happens, I’ll be hashtagging and retweeting all that I can.
Rini Sampath is a sophomore majoring in international relations. Her column, “Leaning In,” runs Mondays.