Where's the Jewish Outrage When It Comes to Pay Equity?

Last week was Equal Pay Day, marking how long into the year a woman in this country must work to have earned the same as a man.

Is that really still true? We women earn only 78 cents for every dollar that men earn for the same work? I was shocked by the facts when I saw this press release from the National Council of Jewish Women .

And I wonder: Where is the outrage? Where are the Jewish women (besides those at NCJW) agitating for change?

It is no new thing to observe that young women in this country are complacent about gender discrimination, as if their mothers and grandmothers had done all the hard work of righting earlier wrongs and now they have nothing to be concerned about.

Two summers ago I taught writing to 16 and 17 year olds at a Jewish leadership-oriented summer camp. Most of my students were female and one day, when we were talking about journalism as a career, I said they might face professional challenges their male peers do not, and cited a couple of examples. The response from this usually dynamic group? Blank stares all around.

But perhaps it’s not just young women. We are all too complacent.

We face so much less gender discrimination than did our mothers. In the early years of my life, in some states women were not permitted to open bank accounts without a husband’s signature.

So much has changed. But still there are issues, often subtle. At one job I had at a company with all-male management, I had to fight hard over a period of months for a raise and I wondered if my male colleagues — who were probably seen, I thought, more as their household “breadwinners” by our bosses — faced the same battle. There’s that added layer of female-ness, too, of wondering how we’re “seen” as women: Are we considered by our managers to be confidently assertive or “too pushy?”

The very first act President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which makes the 180-day window for filing a pay discrimination lawsuit re-set with each discriminatory paycheck, rather than begin at the time the pay was agreed upon. It is a much-needed repair to a bad law. A photograph of Ledbetter with President Obama is above.

But there is so much more work to do — for example, around the lack of paid parental leave in Jewish organizations as in many others.

Why are we Jewish women not making noise around them, agitating for change? Why are we so complacent?

Close