2014 Public Policy


Public Policy Equal Pay Day from AAUW

Women Shortchanged: Personal Stories of the Gender Pay Gap

The damage done by the thousands of dollars I lost to the gender pay gap sticks with me today, despite leaving that employer long ago. My retirement fund isn’t as robust, and I took out more in graduate student loans than I would have if I’d been paid fairly. I’ve been shortchanged by the gender pay gap — and I’m far from alone.

I know this from statistics — the pay gap costs a typical woman at least $400,000 over the course of her career — and because of women who bravely share their stories of unfair pay in hopes of creating change ahead. Here are seven of these women’s stories.

The Design Supervisor Who Made Less than the Employees She Managed
Kerri Sleeman worked for five years at a company that designed, built, and installed laser welding assembly systems. When she was hired, Sleeman said company officials told her they didn’t negotiate pay. In 2003, the company was forced into bankruptcy and employees had to go through bankruptcy court for their final paychecks. When Sleeman looked at the court’s list of claims, she was heartbroken. People she had supervised had larger claims for two weeks of pay than she did.
 The Engineer Who Lost More than $1 Million in Earnings.

Cheryl Hughes was a divorced mother of two when she began to pursue an engineering degree in 1982. She dealt with an overwhelming male majority in the field and found a balance between motherhood and being a student, but she couldn’t overcome pay inequity. Hughes said she lost more than $1 million in earnings throughout her career as an engineer because she is an African American woman.

 The Educator Whose Pay Was Determined by Both Her Gender and Marital Status
When Maxine Lampe started her career as a teacher in the early 1970s, the school district refused to give her the head-of-household pay that men received — even though Lampe was the sole earner while her husband was in graduate school. Later, Lampe went into public school administration and found once again that her gender — and marital status — was a factor in her pay. While trying to negotiate her salary, one of the board members told her, “You don’t need as much pay because your husband is a professor and you have enough money.”

 The Future Law Student Told to Give Up Her Dream
Reshma Daniel’s parents moved to America from India with just $20. Her parents wanted their children to live the American dream. For Daniel, that means law school. While at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, she majored in legal studies and job shadowed a family lawyer. Following a pretrial hearing, another lawyer, a Vietnamese woman, told Daniel that she should not become a lawyer. “She was like, ‘You
won’t get paid. As a woman and of color, you’re going to be underpaid, so there’s really no point,’” Daniel recalled.

 The Graduate Student and Former Technician Who Didn’t Realize You Could Negotiate
Anastasia Engebretson accepted the salary offered to her in her first job out of college. She didn’t know she could negotiate. She found when she arrived for work as a technician that a few men with less education and less relevant experience had negotiated for more pay. “I have a bachelor’s degree in physics,” Engebretson said. “This guy who hadn’t gone to college and couldn’t do mental math was getting paid more.”

 The Lab Technician Who Stood Up against Pay Discrimination
Ellie Setser and her female colleagues in a research lab at a teaching hospital fought pay discrimination in the late 1970s. The technicians in Setser’s lab were all women with college degrees. They learned that a male head technician without a degree — working in a much smaller lab with less responsibility — earned a salary 1.5 times larger than the female head technician in Setser’s lab. The women banded together and called in anonymous complaints to a U.S. Department of Justice pay discrimination hotline. To their surprise, an investigation — and pay raises — followed.

 The Math Consultant Fighting for a Woman’s Worth
Aileen Rizo works as a math consultant at a California county office that supports dozens of school districts. After three years on the job, she said she learned over lunch that a man just hired as a math consultant had started at a much higher salary. After trying unsuccessfully to work out the disparity with human resources, Rizo filed a lawsuit because of her two young daughters. “I don’t want another girl to feel after she’s worked so hard that she’s not worth the same as the man sitting next to her,” Rizo said.

2014-5 Public Policy Sex on Campus  Meg Makransky Sheketoff
(This is the product of two combined articles which should be read in their entirety.)

Emma Sulkowicz said she knew it would be awful to go before a disciplinary panel and describe being raped by a fellow student, but nothing prepared her for what came next. She said one of the two women on the panel, a university official, asked her, repeatedly, how the painful sex act she described was physically possible. (To read more of this article, click here.)

Just over a year ago, AAUW successfully led efforts to make campus safety a part of VAWA reauthorization – messages from AAUW members in all 50 states helped make this possible! AAUW has continued to track the implementation of that campus safety law, and we look forward to schools coming into compliance this year. As more and more survivors stepped forward and publicly discussed their campus experiences, enforcement efforts at the Department of Education ramped up, and the White House officially created a Campus Sexual Assault Task Force and issued a new call to action for safer campuses.

This week was the culmination of all those efforts on many different levels. The White House Task Force released recommendations, launched a useful new website, and convened stakeholders here in Washington, D.C., to keep the conversation going. In addition, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a helpful FAQ document to guide schools on how to effectively implement Title IX and respond to campus sexual assault complaints — including reaffirming that the new VAWA amendments to the Clery Act do not in any way alter or weaken a school’s obligations under Title IX.

As I told U.S. News and World Report this week, the website and the new task force report could be game-changers. "I think many colleges see campus sexual assault as a public relations problem, and I would really like for today to turn that on its head," I said. "I want colleges to step up to the plate and say, 'We know this is an issue, we’re taking our head out of the sand, we've got these tools and we’re now going to move forward on trying to make this better.'"  (To finish reading this AAUW report, click here )


Meg Makransky Sheketoff

Economic Justice
April 8 was Equal Pay Day, a timeline of 14 extra weeks that women in a comparable job needed to earn the same wages men earned between January 1 and December 31, 2013. Can women expect to move ahead under these conditions?   Further, does increasing the minimum wage impact women’s progress?

Comparison of Earnings
Caucasian woman are paid $.77/ $1.00 for males; the discrepancy increases to $.64 for Afro-American women and $.56 for Hispanic women. Based on the trending of the past decade, it will be 2058 before women’s wages = men’s wages

If women’s pay = men’s pay, the poverty rate of working women and their families would fall by ½ from 8.1% to 3.9%. Further, 60% of all women would get a pay raise

Equal pay would add nearly $448 billion (2012) or almost 3% of the GNP to the economy—about the equivalent to adding another state the size of Virginia

Facts About Minimum Wage
Minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009; it has increased three times over the past three decades.

40 hrs. /wk. x $7.25= $15,080 before taxes   (average child care: $10,000/yr.)

70% of minimum wage earners are assigned fewer than 35 hrs. /wk.

Accounting for inflation over past 40 years:  minimum wage should be $10.47 (Feb. 2013)

Minimum wage should be indexed to inflation annually

Higher minimum wage would decrease turnover thus, keeping training costs down

Increasing minimum has low impact on unemployment; there is little reduction of job loss.  Washington & Oregon have the highest minimum wage in US and they rank 30th and 35th respectively among the 50 states in unemployment.

The lowest paying jobs are dominated by women including hair salon positions and all facets of the food industry

An increase in the minimum wage will reduce the strain on social services; 50% of fast food workers are on public assistance programs.  

Increase minimum wage would end the ridiculous subsidization of private low-wage companies by taxpayers.
Example:  Wal-Mart is subsidized by the taxpayer as it employs 1.2 million American workers and generates a profit of $13 billion annually because the corporation refuses to pay a living wage.  A single 300-employee Supercenter incurs about $1 million/year in public benefits costs.

An increase in minimum wage will generate more economic activity and increase tax revenue.

19 States have raised minimum wage above the federal minimum wage

Lawyers collect $1000/hr. to lobby against poor workers over a $1.25/hr. increase

Income distribution:  

In 2010, the wealthiest 1% captured 93% of income growth

In 2010, top quintile = 50.2% income    bottom quintile = 3.3% income

What can you do?

Want to advocate for pay equity?

Want to stand up for an increase in minimum wage?

Want to ensure that women and children have access to the same standard of living as men have?

Then, go directly to www.aauw.org website, find the Two Minute Activist, and urge your representatives to approve pay equity as well as increase the minimum wage.

ISSUES STUDY GROUP – Meg Sheketoff & Sandy Homel

If women’s pay = men’s pay, the poverty rate of working women and their families would fall by ½ from 8.1% to 3.9%. Further, 60% of all women would get a pay raise

Facts About Minimum Wage

Minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009; it has increased three times over the past three decades      

40 hrs. /wk. x $7.25= $15,080 before taxes   (average child care: $10,000/yr.)

Income distribution:  

In 2010, the wealthiest 1% captured 93% of income growth

In 2010, top quintile = 50.2% income    bottom quintile = 3.3% income

What can you do?

Want to stand up for an increase in minimum wage?

Want to ensure that women and children have access to the same standard of living as men have?

Then, go directly to www.aauw.org website, find the Two Minute Activist, and urge your representatives to approve pay equity as well as increase the minimum wage.


Re: Cliff Effect in Pennsylvania/Senate Resolution #62, Senate Bill #175

The Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition has been actively working with State Senator Chuck McIIhinney to pass legislation to help low income working women and men and their families maintain their eligibility for childcare subsidies, food stamps, housing and/or medical assistance.  Individuals may have their eligibility threatened because of small increases in their hourly wage or salary. This happens when the "means test" is applied and a small increase cancels their eligibility for such programs. This is important because families who lose assistance may be put in a situation where they are forced to quit working or can't accept small raises in pay.   It is also true that lost benefits for those families create dire consequences: hunger, homelessness and illness. This is a real danger if the family is slightly above the "means test" limits and loses program assistance.  Economic self- sufficiency and child health and wellness should be a personal and public objective we can all support!

You can read more on the Cliff Effect on the Bucks County Women's advocacy coalition website: bcwac.org - Advocacy in green, then go to Keep Families working, Cliff Effect.

Please contact Carolyn Cowgill at clync@ comcast.net, if you want to help support this initiative and would like more information as an AAUW member. If you would like to take action and help the Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition (BCWAC) in their campaign to support Senate Resolution #62 and Senate Bill# 175 to address the Cliff Effect, you can take part in the BCWAC lobby day at the State Legislature in Harrisburg on May 6, 2014. If you would like to go on May 6th please contact Carolyn at the e-mail listed above or call 215-345-9248.

Laurie Smith Kaczanowska, AAUW Public Policy Committee


Carolyn Cowgill

  • This is a continuation of last month’s discussion of cases before the 2014 Supreme Court which affect women.
  • Fair Housing
  • In Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, the Court will decide an issue critical to combating segregation in housing and to ensuring all individuals—no matter their race, ethnicity, sex, disability, or status as parents—have an equal opportunity to seek a home and fair treatment in any neighborhood. In this case, a New Jersey township declared an entire community “blighted.” Residents were offered between $30,000 and $50,000 for their homes, which were to be replaced with $200,000 buildings that they could not afford to buy. While the lawsuit challenging these actions was pending, the township demolished the vast majority of these homes. The plaintiffs sued under the Fair Housing Act, arguing that the township’s behavior had a “disparate impact” on racial minorities—that it disproportionately harmed African-American and Hispanic families and did not have a necessary and manifest relationship to a legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest. 
  • The ability to challenge disparate impact housing discrimination is especially important to women in low-wage jobs and women of color, who are disproportionately affected by predatory lending practices when seeking mortgages. The disparate impact standard is also important for challenging housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, who are often forced to vacate their homes when landlords impose “zero tolerance” policies for crimes committed in the home, or when jurisdictions penalize households to which police are dispatched on multiple occasions: such actions, which have the effect of doubly victimizing those who experience violence, will often have a disparate impact on women.
  • Age Discrimination
  • In Madigan v. Levin, the Court will decide whether state and local government employees may bring age discrimination claims directly under the Equal
  • Protection Clause and or must rely on the procedures set out in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). In Madigan, a 55-year-old Illinois senior assistant attorney general was terminated and replaced by a woman in her thirties. He sued and alleged unconstitutional age discrimination. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiff was allowed to bring this constitutional challenge, even though he had not exhausted administrative remedies as required in order to bring suit under the ADEA. If the Court decides that the ADEA forecloses a constitutional claim for public employees, they will be required to proceed exclusively through a cumbersome and often backlogged administrative process in order to bring a claim of age discrimination.
  • The Court’s decision will impact state and local government employees with age discrimination claims, and depending on its reach, might also have implications for other discrimination claims against state and local governments. Federal Courts of Appeals are split as to whether Title VII, which protects against sex discrimination in employment, forecloses state and local government employees from pursuing an equal protection claim challenging employment discrimination. (While the Supreme Court has not weighed in explicitly, in the past it has proceeded under the assumption that Title VII cases are not foreclosed.) In 2009, the Supreme Court unanimously held that a student can bring a claim alleging sex discrimination by a public school in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, rather than proceeding exclusively through Title IX.
  • Labor
  • In National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could not issue valid decisions because three of its then-members were appointed by President Obama during a congressional recess, after Senate Republicans prevented confirmation votes that would have allowed the NLRB to function. The D.C. Circuit held that the President could not validly appoint these individuals under the Constitutional provision authorizing recess appointments, because they were appointed in a recess during a Congressional session, rather than the recess that occurs between one Congress and the next, and because the vacancies that the President appointed
  • these members to fill did not arise during the recess. 
  • The ramifications of the D.C. Circuit’s decision are significant, potentially calling into question every order issued by the NLRB between when the appointments were made on January 4, 2012, and August 2013, when new members of the NLRB were confirmed by the Senate. In many instances, NLRB decisions are critical to vindicating the rights of low-wage working women. What is more, similar reasoning could threaten past and future decisions of other federal agencies and prevent a President from staffing vacancies if the Senate failed to confirm any nominees, further disrupting the process of Executive Branch appointments.
  • Looking Ahead
  • This Term, the Court is likely to hear one or more of the percolating challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) guarantee that women receive insurance coverage without cost-sharing for all FDA-approved methods of contraceptives. These challenges, brought by private, for-profit businesses, raise claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents the federal government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion” unless the government’s action advances a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of achieving it. At issue in these cases is whether the boss of a for-profit company should be allowed to trump women’s health and women’s access to the health care they need by refusing to comply with the birth control benefit. The Center has submitted “friend of the Court” briefs in many of these contraceptive coverage cases in the Courts of Appeals, arguing that the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement does not substantially burden religion and that it furthers the compelling state interests of safeguarding public health and promoting gender equality.


“Equal Pay Day is particularly significant because it falls between two legislative anniversaries that have helped women make progress in the workplace – but not quite enough progress. January 29, 2014 is the fifth anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and July 2, 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

As usual, AAUW will host special events and distribute Equal Pay Day resources to help celebrate the work that has been done and that still needs to be done to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work. Last year AAUW members nearly outdid themselves with more than 130 activities happening across the country!”

Visit the Minute Activist to see what you can do to get the support Equal Pay! www.aauw.org/what-we-do/public-policy/two minute activist/