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Liz Watson's picture

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Too many managers today still bring a 1950s mindset to the 21st century workplace. In the 50s and early 60s, shows like Leave it to Beaver taught Americans that “a woman’s place is in the home and I guess as long she’s in the home she might as well be in the kitchen.” Seriously, that comes straight from the mouth of The Beav and Wally’s dad. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sam9wP_uMEA

In fact, the ‘men bring home the bacon/women fry it up in the pan’ trope wasn’t even true in 1963 when the Equal Pay Act became law – 37% of women were in the labor force back then. (Coincidentally 1963 is the same year that Leave it to Beaver’s run ended.)

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that women in professional jobs were shown on t.v. When Mary Rhodes (a.k.a. Mary Tyler Moore) found out she was being paid A LOT less than her male predecessor in her t.v. news producer’s job, she was furious. She confronted her boss, Lou. He admitted Mary was better at her job than the guy paid more, but tried to justify his higher salary on the grounds that he had a family to support. Mary told Lou: by that logic you’d be paying single guys less too, but you don’t! Mary was quick on her feet.

Old-fashioned stereotypes about where women do and don’t belong have kept the wage gap going strong far too long.

In fact, 59 cents – the wage gap in 1963 – was (gasp!) STILL the wage gap in 1981 when Bobby McGee crooned “59 cents makes a grown woman holler!” Take it from Bobby:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIM-MdWm9sY

Over the next 20 years, the wage gap closed by 18 cents, but we’ve been stuck in another rut at 77 cents on the dollar for nearly a decade. That’s 64 cents for African-American women and 55 cents for Hispanic women.

And just a few years ago when women employees at Walmart wanted to know why they were being paid less than the guys and getting passed over for promotions, they were told what Lou told Mary: Men are heads of household, women aren’t. So they need the money more than you do.

It is hard to understand how managers are still using that worn out (and illegal) excuse to justify pay differences between men and women at a time when women make up nearly half the workforce and are more than 40% of primary breadwinners. Are Walmart managers watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns too?

I guess some old habits die hard—so what’s it gonna take for this one to kick the bucket?

It’s gonna take all of us hollerin’ . . . and callin’ . . . and emailin’ . . . and tweetin’ for stronger equal pay laws that will keep some managers’ lesser impulses in check and give women the tools they need to send pay discrimination – and the wage gap -- packin’.


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