Equal pay only half the issue

For the third time, the Paycheck Fairness Act was filibustered by Senate Republicans, which will put off the decision to allow equal pay for women across the country once again.

As an all-female editorial board, this fact disappoints many of us.

On average, women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. However, they account for nearly half of American workers, 49.9 percent, and earn 60 percent of university degrees in America and Europe.

How are women expected to feel confident in their job search when they know that after years of hard work, they will typically receive only a fraction of what men make?

Some opponents of the bill believe that many of the equality issues arise from cultural beliefs rather than structural blockades, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. If women believe that they won’t succeed, they probably won’t.

According to Pew Social Trends, women are less likely to ask for raises or even aspire to top management positions in the workplace. The passage of this legislation may have helped raise the confidence of women and let them know that they, too, can reach their goals.

That isn’t to say that there haven’t been strides toward change. In fact, it’s been dramatic. Only a generation ago, casual sexism was prevalent in almost all aspects of life. Today, women are in charge of some of the world’s leading companies including PepsiCo, General Motors and IBM — something that our grandparents never would have imagined.

If women have been important in paving the current job market, why can’t they be assured equal pay to men?

One answer could be found in the statistic that women only hold 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions. This might account for the problem because even though women now make up half the workforce and 60 percent of university graduates, they are typically graduating with degrees in lower-paying industries.

Sectors like elementary education are flooded with women, while higher-paying jobs, like those centered around the sciences, are more commonly pursued by men.

Perhaps legislation like this would be unnecessary if women at institutions like Baker more aggressively sought majors that led to higher paying jobs. As women, we have to take some responsibility and stop waiting for equality legislation. It takes a little effort on both ends to get us where we want, and need, to be.