Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor proclaimed April 12, 2016, Equal Pay Day in Santa Clara with the stroke of her pen on February 26th. It was her first proclamation as new mayor, coming just nine days after the councilwoman was unanimously appointed by the City Council on February 17. She replaces Jamie Matthews, who unexpectedly resigned as mayor effective February 9.
Gillmor presented the Equal Pay Day Proclamation, written by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), to four representatives of the 155-member Sunnyvale-Cupertino AAUW branch, which includes Santa Clara, at a private meeting March 24th in the City Council chambers.
“The work that you do is so inspiring, and, therefore, I’m especially honored to present my very first proclamation to such an outstanding organization,” said Gillmor, the third woman to serve as mayor of Santa Clara since it became a state-chartered city in 1862.
“Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day [nationally] when women’s earnings ‘catch up’ to men’s earnings from the year before,” pointed out Kathy Reda, Sunnyvale-Cupertino AAUW public policy chair. The mission of the AAUW (www.aauw.org) is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.
The AAUW Equal Pay Day Proclamation states that more than 50 years after President John F. Kennedy signed the federal Equal Pay Act in 1963, women, particularly minority women, still suffer the consequences of unequal pay for substantially equivalent work that requires comparable education, skills, responsibilities and working conditions.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “women working full time, year round in 2014, typically earned 79 percent of what men earned, indicating little change or progress in pay equity.”
In California, women earn 85 percent of what men earn. However, in Congressional District 17, which includes Santa Clara, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Milpitas, women rank 53rd statewide, earning just 65.8 percent of what California men earn. And Latina women in California have the worst gender wage gap in the nation.
“In this day and age, it is shocking to me that women have to struggle in the work force for equal pay. We still have to prove ourselves even when the results of our hard work are evident. Shame,” stated Gillmor.
The Sunnyvale-Cupertino AAUW (svcupt-ca.aauw.net) representatives discussed their experiences as women in the workplace, highlighting changes over the years.
President Judi Pogue recalled a time in the 1980s when secretaries in a California school district got paid less than custodians. After a “comparable worth” job evaluation was conducted–using criteria such as physical effort, responsibility for safety and monetary consequences of errors–the secretaries received a raise.
Funds co-officer Jodi Gordon recalled that when she became a teacher in Muskegon, Michigan, in the 1960s, married women had only recently been allowed to be teachers.
Reda remembered working part-time in a shoe store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the full-time employees were men who got paid much more than she did for doing the same work. Years later, she worked at NASA Ames research center, Mountain View, where everyone got paid the same, according to their grade level.
Education Equity Committee chair Joan Kurtz recalled feeling lucky to get a job teaching science because preference was then given to hiring men, who could coach football or baseball on the side. This was before Title IX became law in 1972, requiring schools receiving federal funds to provide equal opportunities, including in sports, for both sexes.
The enactment of California’s new Equal Pay Law (SB 358) on January 1, 2016, has made California the state with the toughest law in the nation. SB 358 strengthens existing state equal pay laws by eliminating loopholes in their enforcement and empowering employees to discuss their pay without fear of retaliation. Wage transparency is significant, as pay discrimination is hidden from sight when workers are discouraged from even discussing pay.
The federal Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 862/ H.R. 1619) is proposed legislation to update and strengthen the 1963 Equal Pay Act. Once passed, it would allow the country to catch up with California.
“If a woman is prepared and can carry out the position, she should get the same pay as a man. It’s that simple. The time has come that women should get equal compensation,” said Kurtz.