Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 9:21 pm | Fair 50º


Susan Estrich: Women Are Supposed to Get the Money ... But They Don’t

Whether you’re a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker, you make more if you’re a man.

More insulting still: Men in traditionally female professions — say, nursing — make from around $4,000 to $17,000 more than similarly situated women in the same specialties. Let the men in, and they make more.

That is not how it was supposed to work. As the doors marked “men only” and “women only” came down, women and men would have more choices. Men would work at “women’s jobs,” and women would work at “men’s jobs,” and pretty soon we’d achieve pay equity.

Say, in 40 or 50 years, if things don’t keep slowing down.

But why worry about real pay equity when we’re about to get equity on the $10 bill?

Actually, “about to get” is a bit of an overstatement. 2020 is the expected date of release — marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. To think, we may get a president before we get a bill.

And no, it’s not exactly a whole bill. No one is proposing that Alexander Hamilton lose his slot. Instead, the 2020 stamp will picture an undisclosed woman, as well. (Let me guess: In addition to being female, she will also be something else. This is a good bet for an African-American, Hispanic or Asian woman, 2020 being an election year.)

Recently, there was a social media campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill, and Harriet Tubman, the highly respected abolitionist, finished first. At least the yet-to-be-named woman is likely to fare better than the past two women who ended up on coins rather than special paper.

Suffragette Susan B. Anthony was on silver dollars from 1979 to 1981, with a reboot in 1999. Sacagawea, the Native-American woman who led Lewis and Clark’s expedition (some say with her baby strapped across her back), also had her likeness on dollar coins beginning in 2000. Reportedly, neither was very popular.

This only partly explains Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 1978 U.S. Supreme Court encounter with Justice William Rehnquist. Ginsburg, a professor and feminist advocate at the time, was arguing for equality in jury selection. (Her client, ironically, was a male convicted by an all-male jury who claimed women should not have been excluded from his murder trial.) As it happened, Herma Hill Kay, then the dean of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, was arguing on the same day for gender equity in California pension funds.

For a woman clerk like me, it was a day not to be missed. Both women were brilliant, but at the conclusion of then professor Ginsburg’s argument, even cynical me was shocked to hear Rehnquist make a joke of it: “You will not settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?” Later recalling the event, Ginsburg wrote that while she refrained, she was of a mind to reply, “No, your Honor, tokens will not do.”

No, tokens won’t do, except perhaps in one profession: pornography. This is the one profession where women’s pay grade is significantly higher than men’s. A woman can be paid $1,000 for a heterosexual porn shoot, while a man would be paid half of that.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account how long the women spend in hair and makeup or how fast their careers decline. Porn remains perhaps the one area where men are willing to pay a premium for a woman’s services.

A new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research points out the fact that not only is equal pay not a reality now, but it isn’t likely to be one until 2058 — a problem that a new $10 bill will not solve.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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