#20percentcounts: CF businesses, students standing up for equal pay

In America on average, for every dollar that a male worker earns, a female worker can expect to earn 80 cents.

On average, women are paid 20 percent less than men. In other words, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 80 cents. African-American women are paid 37 percent less and Hispanic women, 46 percent less.

The #20percentcounts movement started in Atlanta and moved all the way to Cedar Falls. Many businesses, local and across the country, did various things to support Equal Pay Day, which occurred on April 4 of this year. Talk Me Technologies let female employees out 96 minutes early, approximately 20 percent of a typical work day. In addition, Talk To Me Technologies donated $20 for each female employee ($700 dollars total) to the Iowa Women’s Foundation — a statewide organization that gives out grants to support women and girls in Iowa.

“I don’t have any idea what impact this will make. All I know is that I feel good that we found an easy way to acknowledge the wonderful women on our staff and and the incredible teams — men and women — who support them at TTMT. Hopefully they already knew we neither pay nor promote based on sex, but knowing the statistics I heard that morning, it seemed important to highlight and also inform so that they could go home and share with someone else — spread awareness of this issue,” said Kate Dunning, co-owner of Talk To Me Technologies.

Talk To Me Technologies is a local Cedar Falls business founded by Kate and Matt Dunning and Marty Gallagher. TTMT manufactures speech devices and trains people on how to use them, supporting them along the way with any questions they have.

Kate came up with the idea of donating and supporting the equal pay movement the morning of Equal Pay Day. “I got the idea when I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio). I learned it was Equal Pay Day, which I felt guilty for not knowing. I felt that if I didn’t know this as an employer then it would probably be a good idea to do something to spread awareness, as I learned that nationwide, women earn 20 percent less than men for equal work. On NPR [National Public Radio], they said many retailers were offering 20 percent off that day to men and women, and I wondered what we could do at TTMT. We aren’t a retailer, so I had to get a bit creative. Roughly 75 percent of our staff are women, and 75 percent of our directors, VPs and owners are also women. I felt it would be nice for people to leave the work day early — men and women — to raise awareness internally. As far as  externally, because I didn’t know about Equal Pay day, until the morning of, we wanted to make a statement by donating to an organization that would best spread the word — present and future, and since we know what the IWF does to directly impact women and girls, we felt a donation in that direction would be the most impactful,” Dunning said.

The equal pay issue usually focuses on the wage gap where a man and a woman do the same job but the woman is paid less. That does happen in many places in our society, but there are many other factors contributing to unequal pay. Not only do women sometimes earn less, but one may see less women in higher paying positions, or may see less women receiving promotions because of certain characteristics they posses.

A study done by Leanin.org  was conducted in 2016 about Women in the Workplace, and it revealed that for every 100 women that are promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted. Some women are also experiencing oppression as the study opened up that a woman who is negotiating for a promotion or compensation increase is 30 percent more likely to receive feedback that they are too “bossy,” “aggressive” or “intimidating,” than men who negotiate.

Former Cedar Falls student Gabbie Holtzman has witnessed and experienced her own  workplace male dominance. “I think at my job in Target (Starbucks barista), some co-workers or higher-ups see the women as less competent. I have some female workers who have been trampled on because management knows that they are too shy, too young and too much of a ‘girl’ to say anything about receiving a promotion with no pay. That’s taking advantage of a person, not only because she is a woman, but also for the traits that she possesses that may make her seem more ‘submissive’ or the way some of society believes that women should act,” Holtzman said.

Other factors contributing to the wage gap relate to the fact that less women are in line for higher paying jobs and are less apt to get in line for those jobs. According to the 2016 Women in the Workplace Study, by the time women reach the SVP level (amount of time needed to learn techniques, acquire the information and develop the facility for average performance in a specific job worker situation), they only hold 20 percent of the line roles, and these roles lead directly to the C-Suite (corporations most important senior executives.) The study also revealed that women get less access to senior leaders, which are the road to success, yet the women reported less interactions with the senior sponsorship.

Many of the females at Cedar Falls High School have jobs in the Cedar Valley. Though most of them are not experiencing unequal pay, they have a strong opinion on the wage gap that is affecting the older working class.

Senior Miranda Simpson works at Panera Bread and Bakery, where the starting wage is $9 an hour, and increases as employees get promotions and skills increase. There is no wage gap at Panera, but the senior describes a small but evident difference in treatment.

“I feel the male managers are more kind to the girls because the girls can be more emotional, but there is not like a huge difference,” Simpson said.

Holtzman who has a lot of experience about this issue while working at Brown Bottle, Miss Wonderful and Target’s Starbucks, also has a firm grip on the wage gap. “I do believe that there is still a gap in wages between men and women. Sometimes, it can be hard to recognize the gap because no one likes to talk about money. It’s a sensitive subject to some. I’m not sure if the gap is as prominent in part-time jobs. The large scale companies that employ part-time workers at minimum wage want to pay the absolute lowest that they can while still maintaining employee morale and profit. It becomes difficult when there are young families trying to survive off of minimum wage, experiencing the gap in wages, and inflation. Also, studies have shown that men are offered raises or promotions in a shorter amount of time than a woman for the same work. I believe this gap exists because as people grow older and society starts to see young men take on the role of a father, they believe that men should be primary ‘breadwinners’ of families and could ‘justify’ a gap in wage for that very reason,” Holtzman said.

As Holtzman said, the opportunities differ for men and women. Senior Anna Chestnut works at Orchard Hill Church,  and she said she also sees the wage gap discrepancy. “I haven’t noticed significant differences in the treatment of employees of different genders, although occasionally the more physically-involved jobs get assigned to men rather than women,” Chestnut said.

Although Chestnut has strong negative feelings for the wage gap, she has hope. “I do believe that the wage gap is a serious problem in American society. Many studies have shown that  women make less for the same jobs, and it is really disappointing. There has been a lot of progress in women’s issues over the past few years though, and it is important to continue discussions on creating equal pay in more workplaces.”

Positives mindsets such as Chestnut’s are why we have the progress we do now. The positivity about women in the working class and working toward equal pay is why we have people like Dunning working to support equal pay and spread awareness. The courage that Holtzman and Simpson have to speak out about discrepancies on treatment and promotions of men and women is how we know as Americans we need to make a change, and to end the wage gap.

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