Equal Pay Day: Pay Equity and Startups

Next Equal Pay Day: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap in earnings translates into $10,849 less per year in female median earnings, leaving women and their families shortchanged. The wage gap is even more substantial when race and gender are considered together, with African-American women making only 62 cents,and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

National Women’s Law Center

Equal Pay Day is the date that symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned in 2010. This year, it’s April 12.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress today (after being killed last December by a Republican filibuster), and more recently the AAUW’s come out with anothre report, The Simple Truth About the Pay Gap, demolishing the arguments of the guys who deny there’s a problem.  My posts from the last couple years ( #fairpay and Women Don’t Ask and What would it mean if women were paid as much as men?) cover a lot of this, and as always, there’s a lot of great stuff being written — check out the #fairpay hashtag for links.

After all that it’s hard to come up with something new to talk about.  So let me just spend a moment on the area of gender equity I’m personally most involved with right now: representation of women at startups.

Of course it’s far from the only aspect of pay equity, but it’s an important one: combine Facebook’s $75 billion valuation, LinkedIn and Groupon’s hoped-for $25-billion-plus IPOs, Twitter, Zynga, and all the other companies where almost all the stock is held by male founders and almost-all-male investment firms, and we’re talking some serious inequity.  And with the ultra-hot incubator Y Combinator investing in literally hundreds of startups with an overall gender ratio of 90% male, it’s easy to see the pattern continuing.

It’s not a matter of interest or competence.  Women start just as many companies as men, and women-led companies are on average at least as successful.   Instead, it’s a set of historical patterns that have created the current situation: almost all venture capital investement decisions are made by guys, and almost of the money goes to guys.  Unless that changes, then there will continue to be a huge gender differences in wealth creation.

Of course, it’s possible that women in the aggregate will say “oh well” and shrug their shoulders about this.  But that strikes me as unlikely.  Instead, what I see is women organizing and building new connections.  Women 2.0 in the Bay Area, Pipeline in New York, ASTIA, the Women Who Tech telesummits, GeekFeminism. #morevoices, … there’s starting to be a very powerful infrastructure out there to tap into.  So despite all the frustration, there’s plenty of room for optimism as well.

Once again, though, this is only one aspect of pay equity.  The Paycheck Fairness Act addresses a very different, and even more important, set of problems.   So please, contact your legislators and support; and help get the word out about Equal Pay Day.


*  Every time I post about this, several guys jump in on my Facebook profile with excuses for why it’s okay for women are paid less than men for doing the same work.  So now here’s one more link I can send them that they can twist themselves into pretzels trying to explain away.