Equal Pay For Equal Work

by Alexandra Williams on November 15, 2010

At the invitation of Brigade Marketing, I recently represented Women Grow Business at an advance press screening of the movie Made in Dagenham, which is about the 1968 Ford Motor Co. strike in England by working class women for equal pay.

The movie opens in theaters this Friday, November 19; that’s actress Sally Hawkins as Rita above (photo by Simon Mein, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics).

Note I was not paid to write this review (and none was guaranteed), but I did receive two free tickets to the screening.

Equality and Respect

Since it’s based on a true story, I won’t be giving away the ending by mentioning that they didn’t fully achieve their goal, although they came fairly close.

After a three-week strike that brought the company to a standstill, the women settled for a deal that brought them from making 15% less than men to about 8%. More importantly, they gained an ally in Barbara Castle, Labour’s Employment Minister, who went on to champion and steer into law the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the movie (based partially on my total fan worship of Bob Hoskins and Miranda Richardson, who both have featured roles), I also left the screening wondering where we stand today regarding equal pay.

Here are some interesting tidbits that I dug up:

In Britain (Dagenham is in Essex), the gap is up to 22% in the private sector, and as high as 45% in the banking industry. By 2013, all companies with at least 250 employees must publish their pay scales (and gaps) or risk prosecution.

In the U.S., Census statistics released on September 16, 2010 and based on information collected in 2009, show that

women earn 77% of what men earn. White women, that is. African American women are at 67.5%, Latinas’ earnings at 58%, and Asian American women make 90% of all men’s earnings.

It would appear that the 1963 Equal Pay Act is still a work in progress!

In some semi-heartening news for women who live in WGB’s Washington D.C. base, the gap is smaller than any of the 50 states: women make 88.2 cents for every “man dollar.” One word of caution, though. Don’t look for work parity in Wyoming, where the rate stands at 65.5%.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, first introduced in 2005 by then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is supported by 84% of registered voters. This act proposes to expand the scope of the EPA of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act as part of an effort to address gender income disparity. The act made it through the House of Representatives in 2009, but had no Senate Republican co-sponsors, for a variety of reasons.

Here’s the movie’s official trailer.

Sally Hawkins, who plays the leading role in “Made in Dagenham,” said of her favorite scene, in which she crashes a union meeting and makes a powerful “truth to power” speech, that

“you don’t need to shout in those situations, you don’t need to stamp your feet…As long as you are speaking your truth…it will be heard.”

What do you think? Is it time to speak truth to power again? And where does that power lie, 48 years after the strike in Dagenham?

I encourage WGB readers to see the film, both as entertainment and for its representation of history. Maybe even take your mom.

I took my mom (who turned 81 that day) and she nodded in encouragement and reminiscence throughout the film. As a woman raising five children during the 60s, she had a cohort’s view of events. As a female rebel, she taught her kids (four daughters before the only son) to fight for equality and respect.

Equality and respect; in British working-class accents!

More from Women Grow Business:

Alexandra Williams, MA, co-writes Fun and Fit: Q and A with K and A, a humorous fitness blog with her twin sister, Kymberly, in the hope that readers will laugh themselves into a fit state. Together they speak at events, on the radio and in public rest stops. Alexandra is a contributing editor and writer for IDEA Fitness Journal, and teaches in the exercise sports studies department at UC Santa Barbara. Talk to Alexandra on Twitter, where she goes by @Alexandrafunfit.

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