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March 5, 2011
Pay Parity and the 'Mancession'
No wonder prostitution is the oldest profession.

Back when the British Empire enslaved Caribbean women, even female chattel had fewer opportunities than their male counterparts. Women’s aspirations centered on nursing, midwifery, or housekeeping. IF they were lucky. The only way female slaves could hope to accrue any wealth was through prostitution. Sadly, not much has changed.

The past few years of record-breaking job loss has been coined a “Mancession” because the bulk of lost jobs mostly affected men. Just as earlier empires squashed women under their patriarchal thumbs, females still don’t have their pick of the choicest (highest-paying) careers, and the pink slips predominately axed the better “male” positions.

Poor babies. We may have lost a smaller percentage of jobs than men since 2008, but buck up, boys: Women have been dealing with low-wage work and lower pay for eons. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2009 data, females still only earn 80¢ for every $1.00 made by men doing the exact same job.

Years ago, a male employee with less experience than I started with, came on board our advertising department making at least $6,000 more than I made. How do I know for sure? Recruiters told me I was well below parity, making $10,000-$15,000 less than the average writer. There was no way this man with a second wife, two kids, alimony, and a mortgage would’ve stooped so low. I flirted with the option of having him subpoenaed, if I ever needed to prove pay discrimination.

According to the latest reports, men are also resurrecting their jobs faster than women; not surprising, since females compose the majority of the government workforce where jobs continue to be slashed. An older, wiser male co-worker always exhorted: “If you see a company overrun with women, run away. It means they don’t pay well.”

I’ve worked in my share of amazon companies: women receptionists, women admins, women project and traffic managers. (Well, we usually are more organized; we had to be. The cave, the brood, and the foraging all needed tending at once. Cave women were the earliest multi-taskers.) Fewer were the women supervisors, creative directors, and even rarer, the female V.P., who, when she appeared on the scene, almost always garnered the nickname “bitch” or was a glorified prostitute who “slept her way to the top.”

Sadly, I’ve experienced bitchy female bosses, which begs the question: What came first? In their defense, women have had to scrabble for the same opportunities as men, only to be paid less. Can’t say I blame them for using tactics many men have resorted to for years. I’d be bitchy, too, knowing I worked just as hard, or harder, and still was worth 20¢ less per dollar.

Then there’s age. If younger women think the past few years have been difficult, try being 55 to 64, when it takes a female an average 39.1 weeks to land new work, compared with 29.6 weeks for a man of the same age. Obviously, the study didn’t focus on the advertising profession, or they would have doubled those figures.

Then there comes the time to talk money and ask for what you deserve. We women aren’t the most assertive negotiators. Men are more likely to ask for what they want and get it. In their 2011 Workplace Outlook Study, the staffing firm Adecco found that 41% of men think they’ll receive a raise or promotion this year, compared to only 29% of women.

As with many gender disparities, men and women want different things from their jobs, too. Males value job security the most, while women claim health benefits as their most important concern. Naturally, it’s the nurse in us. Or maybe the prostitute.

Either way, all humans deserve to be respected and paid for a job well done. Let’s hope our economy is well on the mend and maybe women can finally ask for that 20¢ raise.

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Mary Alias is a writer who hasn’t won any awards nor worked at any hot NY agencies. Consequently, you probably shouldn’t read what she has to say. She’s just a hard-working creative who doesn’t want to get ahead if it means sticking a stiletto-ed heel (actually, she prefers flats) into a fellow forehead. Mary strives to collaborate, create, write. And get paid for it — because, next to writing, she needs to eat

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