Comparing Apples and Oranges--Pay Equity - March 2001

Denver Women's Commission
Comparing Apples and Oranges--Pay Equity - March 2001

Prepared by Chaer Robert
For Colorado Woman News
March 2, 2001

Comparing Apples and Oranges -- Pay Equity

Mary Olmedo and other women worked for many years in a Colorado factory sewing canvas jeep tops. It was hard, heavy, exacting work. The finished tops were loaded and shipped by factory warehousemen. Guess who made more money? The men. Why?

A job analysis in Los Angeles County found that children’s social service workers (female) were equivalent to probation officers (male) based on points given for skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. Probation officers made $20,000 per year more. In the City of Portland, a job analysis showed clerk typists as equivalent to groundskeepers. The clerk typists (women) made $6,930 less than groundskeepers (male). In the state of Illinois, a job analysis found registered nurses (women) had jobs which scored much higher in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions than electricians (men) but they were paid $11,976 less per year.

Sen. Sue Windels is sponsor of SB 41. It creates a pilot program for employers to voluntarily analyze their pay practices and develop plans to correct any pay inequities that result from the historic undervaluing of women’s work. She promoted the bill at a February 7, 2001 press conference. In its current form, SB 41 would create a state women’s commission to implement and evaluate the program. It would also prohibit all employers from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for sharing wage and salary information with co-workers.

Coloradoans for Fair Pay is the Coalition behind the legislation. Over 40 organizations have endorsed the legislation, including Colorado Women’s Agenda; 9to5,National Association of Working Women; and Colorado Federation of Business and Professional Women. The Coalition will also commemorate Equal Pay Day on April 3, 2001. It marks the day when an average woman’s 2001 wages, when added to her entire 2000 wages, equals what the average man earns in just the year 2000.

In Colorado, full time working women earn 75 cents for every dollar Colorado men earn. Colorado women of color earn only 59 cents for every dollar a man earns. Over a lifetime, a woman loses about half a million dollars in earnings. This reduces not only our current standard of living, but also our retirement security.

More than half of women workers are concentrated in sales, clerical and service jobs. Childcare workers, eldercare workers and nurses continue to be underpaid, despite severe labor shortages because they are seen as “ women’s work”. “Jobs are paid based on who is doing the job,” Rep. Suzanne Williams, the bill’s cosponsor, explained.

We could end the pay gap by fully integrating the workforce. To do that, though, 10 million U.S. women would have to change places with 10 million men. Someday, perhaps, supply and demand would correct the imbalance. Overall the earnings gap between men and women has decreased. It has decreased annually an average of 1/3 of a penny on the dollar from 1963 to 1999.

Policy makers constantly claim they are attempting to improve the financial situation of families. They propose tax cuts, even bonuses for welfare recipients who get marry. But for the long term, what would matter most, according to Karen Amidon, Executive Director of the Colorado Women’s Agenda, is if women’s work was paid comparable to men’s. Two out of three workers are employed by firms already using some form of job evalation. They just don’t necessarily take the next step of pay analysis across job categories. “ How can you compare apples and oranges?” Some would ask. “We do all the time,” Amidon explained. “We compare their size, nutritional content, calories, and price.”

For more information about pay equity contact Colorado Women’s Agenda at 303-863-7336, or visit womens agenda or 9to5, National Association of Working Women 303-628-0925. Equal pay self-audits for employers and employees are available online at