Women have historically been pushed to the side of society in this country as moody, oversensitive and incompetent. They are largely viewed by the ruling elite as unfit to make decisions for themselves and less useful in the work force than men. A recent study shows that the pay gap between men and women begins right out of college, with women making about 20 percent less than their male counterparts, and that percentage increases over time to about 30 percent after 10 years.
The study, conducted by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, found that even considering factors such as hours, occupation and parenthood, at least one-quarter of the initial gap remains unaccounted for and the gap still grows over time.
The study revealed that educational achievement does not make a difference, either. Women have, on average, higher GPAs than men in all majors, but make less money. Additionally, women who attend prestigious colleges make the same as men who attend much less competitive institutions.
This study shows without a doubt that workplace discrimination is still a reality for women across the country.
There is no country in the world in which women and men have equitable pay, education, political power and health care. The countries that come closest are Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The United States slipped even lower last year.
To deny the existence of sexism in the workplace is to deny the existence of any other form of discrimination. Every system of oppression can be traced back to the original oppression of women, which came with the rise of restrictions (often based on religion) on women’s freedom of speech, manner of dress, access to political power and economic opportunity.
By limiting women, the U.S. culture itself is limited, unable to reach its full potential of political, social, material and artistic expression. Keeping women down keeps everyone down, because the oppression of women comes from the idea that people are property – that they can be owned and controlled – and that objectification is acceptable.
This idea has been extended throughout history to racial minorities, the poor and all people who have faced, and continue to face, oppression. It is the same idea inherent in the fascist/capitalist mindset that being paid a wage well below what your time is actually worth to a company somehow excuses the condition of slavery. Human beings, and especially women, have been slaves to the elite for long enough.
“CEO salaries rose 12 percent in 2004 compared with average raises of 3.6 percent for rank-and-file workers, further widening the world’s largest gaps between executive and labor pay,” according to Commondreams.org.
Workers across the country – and around the world, for that matter – should begin asking why their time and talent are being used to pay for someone else’s million dollar home, while average workers struggle to pay the bills of their much more modest lifestyles.
Denying women a fair wage and a fair shot at all of life’s opportunities denies them the respect they deserve for giving us the gift of life and making our lives easier every single day.
Until women get the respect they deserve, none of us are free. Women’s liberation is inseparable from human liberation, and as the saying goes, “What better place than here, what better time than now?”
Jose Ferrer is a sophomore majoring in sociology.