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Advocates push for change in gender pay gap on Equal Pay Day

By Mary O'Connell,


Tuesday marks Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into the year women need to work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

It’s a challenging reality for many women: the gender pay gap, something Sheila Barry-Oliver knows all too well.

“I went into information technology in the late 60s, and there weren’t very many women in that field, and when I moved into management, there weren’t very women in management either,” said Barry-Oliver.

She’s now President of Business and Professional Women of Florida.

"I became aware of the fact that I was paid less than my male peers through much of my career, and then I was fortunate enough to have some managers who worked very hard to remove the gender pay gap,” said Barry-Oliver.

According to a recent analysis from Pew Research , in 2022, American women typically earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s despite women accounting for more than half of the college-educated labor force in the US, according to Pew Research .

"It just takes time to break through that glass ceiling,” said Janet Wise.

Wise is an attorney with Sass Law Firm, an all-women firm in Tampa that specializes in employment law.

She weighed in on some states making pay scales more transparent.

"We don't have any laws in Florida that require that to be revealed in the private sector,” said Wise. “Sometimes they come to find out because someone else confides in them and lets them know, 'hey you're being paid $10,000 less a year than the male counterpart that you have, and then obviously the woman would have a discrimination claim that she could bring."

When it comes to advocating for yourself in the workplace, Wise thinks standing up for yourself and negotiating is a good idea.

“Another law that protects workers against talking about what they earn is the National Labor Relations Act,” said Wise. “That’s a law that mostly has to do with labor unions, but it also has been found and interpreted to allow workers to talk about the wages that they earn without getting in trouble with the employer.”

While women work to close the gap, advocates like Barry-Oliver are looking to the future.

“Equal Pay Day used to be in April. It’s now in March, and it’s even in the middle of March, so that’s an improvement, and I think what we have to do is to continue to highlight the fact that it’s an issue and continue to find ways to address the problem as best as we can,” said Barry-Oliver.

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