Money, Money, Money, Money…MONEY!

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If you’re a woman, today is a day of celebration. After 463 days, this (April 8, 2014) is the day that you’ve finally earned the equivalent of a man’s wages from 2013! Happy Equal Pay Day!

Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, women still make less than men do in almost every profession. On average, the gap is 77 cents to the dollar that men earn, and in some states the average is even worse:

2014-04-04-SimpleTruth_statebreakdown

Sorry, Wyoming.

According to a graphic posted by PA State Rep. Dan Frankel, in Pennsylvania the statistics are even more startling. In Allegheny County, home to Chatham, women earn near the top when it comes to the wage gap, and yet they are still below the national average by at least 8 cents on the dollar.

PA Wage Gap

(Unless of course you’re Dr. Esther Barazzone, and then you’re making 3 times what the male University president down the street does.)

The wage gap starts out early. When the American Association of University Women examined college graduates one year out of college, they found a disparity of almost $8,000 between what women and men were being paid.

Where does this gap come from?

Experts attribute the gap to several things. Men may tend to enter into majors that have higher technical components and therefore higher wages to start with. After graduation they also may be more likely to stay within that career field and use that degree than women who may enter another field entirely, or (given the overwhelming pressure on women to assume primary childcare duties) entirely step back from the working world for a period of time. Some argument can be made as well that women don’t negotiate at the same level as men do for their first job out, putting them already behind their peers.

Yet for all of these factors, there are some areas of the wage gap that cannot be explained away. After disparities in hours, occupation, college major, employment sector, and other factors associated with the wage gap are controlled for, the gap shrinks, but it doesn’t disappear entirely.

So how does this apply to Chatham?

Women who earn only a high school diploma make 57% of what the average female college graduate made, though again that woman would earn even less in comparison to a man with the same college degree.

Chatham’s mission of educating women is important because it gives these women a better chance at greater lifetime earnings. But the degree is only part of the equation. Women’s college graduates walk away from their four years with so much more than a piece of paper and a technical skill set.

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement Women’s College Survey, women’s colleges, compared to co-ed liberal arts colleges and public universities, scored higher at being “extremely effective” in helping their students:

  • Develop self-confidence
  • Develop the ability to learn new skills
  • Think creatively and analytically
  • Speak and write effectively
  • Solve problems and make effective decisions
  • Relate to people of different backgrounds
  • Be prepared for their first job
  • Be prepared for career change or advancement

Employers today know that students coming out of college are trained well, and yet employers also know that technical knowledge of any employment sector isn’t everything. More and more employers are demanding so-called “soft skills” just as much as technical expertise. Those soft skills include, among others:

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Adaptability
  • Research skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Emotional Intelligence

Do you see the correlation?

Women’s college graduates come out of the gate readily prepared for the job market. And yet, even with all of these skills, and all of this potential, these women will still make less than their male counterparts.

So why fight so hard for women’s colleges when they still end up behind their male counterparts?

Because the knowledge these women leave their women’s college with, including Chatham women, is not limited to what they are immediately capable of. It’s where their potential lies. Given that women’s college graduates make up significant portions of elected representatives and top-tier business leaders, a women’s college education can be an immeasurable aid in getting women into the higher levels of society where the decisions about things such as equal pay are determined.

We fight to Save Chatham not just for ourselves, the alumnae who treasured our time there and look back with fond memories. We fight for the women yet to come, the ones who deserve to have the best training ground possible to put them on equal footing with men: socially, politically, and economically.

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