Equal Pay Day fell this year on April 14. It’s the day that women’s wages catch up to men’s wages from last year, according to national rates. Of course, if it were a state holiday, we would have to celebrate in May or June. Women in West Virginia face some of the largest gender wage gaps in the country.
Unequal Bake Sales
Equal Pay Day brought bake sales throughout Morgantown. To highlight the national wage gap statistics, men paid a dollar and women only 78 cents per baked good. Danielle Conaway, a member of the WVU Council for Women’s Concerns, organized the sale and said she considers the event a success.
“We just basically wanted to create a dialogue about this issue,” Conaway said.
In West Virginia, the gender pay-gap is second-worst in the country. Women get paid 67 cents to a man’s dollar for equal work. A 2015 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that by current trends, women in West Virginia will not reach income equality for another two to four generations.
UnHappy Hour "Fix-It" Party
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer hosted an Unhappy Hour at a Morgantown wine bar to mark Equal Pay Day. She said it's especially important to focus on the issue in West Virginia where such disparities exist.
“It’s probably the rural nature of West Virginia, women just don’t get paid as much. And it’s hard to make it.”
Folks joined Fleischauer for half-priced wine by the glass and $5 pizzas, and to discuss how to close the gender wage gap. Among them: Jesse Kalvitis, an adjunct professor in WVU’s English Department. She says it’s been an eye-opening experience to teach young women at WVU in recent years, many of whom are engineering students.
“As much as my English friends would shake their heads and cry, the push to get more women in STEM fields is really, really helping,” Kalvitis said.
The Gap Persists
While the wage gap has narrowed during the past 30 years, many experts speculate that the reason the gap persists is because of the extremely under-valued business of bringing babies into the world and raising them. The Pew Research Center reports women were more likely to say they had taken career interruptions to care for their family. And Fleischauer points out that 40 percent of working mothers in the U.S. are the sole providers for their families. She said wage inequity leads to poorer living conditions, inadequate nutrition, and significantly fewer opportunities for the children of almost half of the families in the United States.