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This 17-Year-Old Girl Got Fired for Asking for Equal Pay at Her Summer Job

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Editor’s note: After publishing this piece, we received the following communication from Ashleigh Siefker, Executive Director of Operations at Pizza Studio: 

“Pizza Studio has fully investigated the incident and we want to be clear that gender did not play a role in determination of either salary, nor for any Pizza Studio employee. […] After an in-depth review, we are confident this instance was not one of gender-bias but rather a failure to assign the correct salary and a misunderstanding of our company policies by one of our employees; it should be noted the manager in communication with Miss Walcott is also a female. Pizza Studio did not agree however with how the manager handled the situation. We pride ourselves with treating our employees and guests with respect and open communication at all times. We have extended a formal apology to both Miss Walcott and Mr. Reed and have parted ways with the responsible manager in the best interest of all parties involved. We plan to use this experience to better improve our hiring procedures and policies moving forward.”

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Wage inequality between men and women rears its ugly head again, this time for a Kansas teen that discovered her male friend was making more money than she was for the same job. When she questioned what she thought was an innocent mistake, her manager fired her.

Jensen Walcott, 17, began her job at Pizza Studio for $8 an hour, excited to finally land a summer job. She was also delighted when she learned that her good friend Jake Reed, also 17, would be working with her. That is, until she learned that even with the exact same experience and skill set, he was hired at $8.25 an hour.

When she asked her manager to fix the problem, her manager fired her and Jake for discussing wages, apparently against policy for Pizza Studio. This does not, however, address the question of why they were paid unequal wages in the first place.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, it’s entirely appropriate for employees to discuss wages. And despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women in the same work place be given equal pay for equal work, the “gender gap” in pay continues to this day. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), there was a 21-percent wage gap between full-time male and female workers in 2014. The pay gap is even greater for African-American and Latina women, with African-American women earning $.64 and Latina women earning $.56 for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man.

Claudia Goldin recently discussed this for a Freakonomics radio session called “The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap.” Goldin is the first woman to get tenure in the Harvard economics department, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say she knows more about this than I do. Goldin cites several factors including “occupational segregation,” which essentially means men and women traditionally apply for jobs in different job sectors (i.e. more women are nurses and more men are doctors, though this gap is shrinking). Though in Jensen’s case, it appears she was simply paid less for having a vagina.

Also temporal flexibility, the ability to put in hours when you can, is more important to women because of the “parent penalty,” which Goldin says can also contribute to a difference in wages.

What everyone seems to be missing here is women place importance on this because we are required to be the more flexible worker in order to take care of our families. We are not doing less work. In fact, I know many women who work as much as possible in the office; take kids to activities, doctor appointments, make meals, and get them to bed; and THEN sit up until midnight finishing their day jobs. If the work is getting completed, this obligatory flexibility deserves less income why exactly?

There is also an inbred belief on the part of most women that they don’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled” by asking for more money. When Jennifer Lawrence found out she was being paid less than her male counterparts for American Hustle, she blamed herself because she was a “bad negotiator.” This does not seem to be a problem for men because men are acclimatized from an early age to believe they deserve more. This is not an insult to men, but an observation that the opportunity exists for all of us to instill the same belief in our young girls.

The fact that it is 2016 and we are still talking about this is ludicrous. Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and are, in today’s society, more and more becoming the breadwinners for their families. When women are not paid equitably, everyone — including the men in their family — suffers.

This is not a gender problem, this is everyone’s problem.

h/t: MSN

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