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The 21st Century Worker: Gender Equity and Public Policy

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Andrew Vaz
June 5, 2015

There is one word that comes to mind when merging the topic of gender equity, public policy and the modern worker: globalization. The world as we know it is becoming more integrated. With that said, globalization has had both a positive and negative impact on society and public policy.

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Globalization has brought increased access to economic opportunities. Most of these opportunities have resulted in more open trade and the spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs). It has also resulted in additional economic opportunities for women and in some cases increased wages relative to men. The World Bank claims, “trade openness and the diffusion of new information and technologies have translated into more jobs and stronger connections to markets for many women.”

Globalization has promoted egalitarian attitudes. With increased access to information, primarily through television and the Internet, the general American public can learn about social mores in other places. This can change perceptions and promote  egalitarian attitudes. More supportive attitudes towards women does not translate into better life standards. Women still make up the majority of the low-wage workforce industry.

Gender Equity 

Let’s be clear: equity is not the same as equality. Equality focuses on creating the same starting line for everyone. Equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits – the same finish line. Equity is the process of allocating resources, programs, and decision making fairly to both males and females without any discrimination on the basis of sex and addressing any imbalances in the benefits available to males and females.

The advantages to gender equity:

  • An opportunity to learn more about their organization, especially about key issues that motivate staff.
  • A chance to find out what is being done well already and identify areas for further progress.
  • Organizations that have greater diversity in senior management are known to be more successful. According to the Human Rights Commission, diversity creates wealth.
  • Opportunities for improved employment relations.
  • Opportunities for employees to do their best work every day and be rewarded on merit. 

Fair and transparent pay and progression systems in human resources lead to:

  • Better staff morale, engagement and productivity of skilled workers.
  • Enhanced recruitment and retention of the occupations needed to run businesses.
  • Future labor market supply ensured by keeping those occupations attractive as a career choice. 

However, the biggest advantage for gender equity is equal pay for equal work. Women today are paid, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. The gap is even worse for women of color – African-American women earn only 64 cents and Latina women earn only 55 cents for each dollar earned by males.

To help address this unfair and unacceptable wage gap, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on January 29, 2009, restoring the protection against pay discrimination that was stripped away by the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Public Policy – Wage Fairness and the Paycheck Fairness Act 

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act reinstates prior law and makes clear that pay discrimination claims on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion and disability “accrue” whenever an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck. But more work is needed to help narrow the wage disparity in the workforce.

There is proposed legislation entitled the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act will help further secure equal payment for equal work. The bill would serve as an update of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a law that has been unable to achieve its promise of closing the wage gap because of limited enforcement tools and inadequate remedies. The Paycheck Fairness Act would make critical changes to the law, including:

  • Requiring employers to demonstrate that wage differentials are based on factors other than sex.
  • Prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.
  • Permitting reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages.
  • Strengthening penalties for equal pay violations.
  • Directing the Department of Labor to assist employers and collect wage-related data.
  • Authorizing additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff to better identify and handle wage disputes. 

In the 21st century, the absolute way to eliminate the disparity in wages between males and females is by creating public policy that reflects gender equity in the workforce. Globalization has played a pivotal role in fostering egalitarian values, but more work needs to be done to ensure true opportunity for women.


Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.S., M.P.A. is a doctoral student in leadership and education program at Barry University. He has a double master’s in criminal justice and public administration from Florida International University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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