Opinion: women can’t wait for pay equality

Jamie Brian, Opinion Writer

Women have been fighting for equality in America for over a century, but there is one key area where we still lag behind men: pay.

March 15 was Equal Pay Day, a day that represents how far into the new year women have to work to earn as much as their male coworkers.

Since the Women’s Suffrage Movement, women have become doctors, professors, soldiers and Vice President of the United States. But women’s wages are still only 82.3 percent of their male colleagues’ annual earnings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This difference in earnings adds up over time. A study from the U.S. Census Bureau found that women in Ohio earned $10,873 less than men per year. Over a career of 40 to 50 years, women will make over $500,000 less than men working the same span of time.

If you’re hoping for a silver lining in these disheartening statistics, prepare to wait for a few more decades; if the gender wage gap continues at this pace, women won’t achieve pay equality with men until 2059.

Women can’t wait for pay equality. As long as the gender wage gap exists, we can’t say we live in a truly equal society.

Why do we still have a gender wage gap in 2022? It’s a combination of low wage work, unpaid caregiving responsibilities, lack of paid medical leave and sexism.

As a former female flight instructor and airline pilot, I am deeply familiar with the last item on that list.

For two and a half years, I worked as an instructor at a flight school in Pennsylvania. We had eight full-time instructors, but there was only one other woman on the staff.

One of the reasons I had decided to become an instructor was to create a more inclusive training environment and break the stigma of aviation being a “boys club.” However, it seemed like the higher I climbed in the rungs of the aviation world, the more resistance I faced.

I’ll never forget the first time I lost work because of my gender. One of my job duties was taking prospective students up for an introductory flight lesson, where they could sightsee over the city and learn some basic flying skills.

I was outside doing a preflight inspection on the airplane before our lesson when the student arrived and asked for Jamie.

I have a gender neutral name. Many people who see my name on paper don’t know whether I’m a man or a woman until they meet me in person.

I waved the student over and told him I would be his instructor for the day.

“I thought Jamie was a male instructor,” he said. “I don’t want to fly with a woman.”

Before I could respond, the student walked back inside the flight school and requested another instructor.

I watched from a picnic table as he reemerged with my male coworker, who hopped into the airplane I had just preflighted, fired up the propeller and taxied away with my student. And my day’s wages.

Throughout my aviation career, I experienced many more scenes like this. I lost more students to male coworkers. As an airline pilot, I was frequently mistaken for a flight attendant — while I was in full pilot uniform. I even had some passengers approach me and say they didn’t feel safe with a woman in the cockpit.

I felt like no matter what I did, no matter how many hours I logged or how many stripes I had on my shoulder — stripes distinguish first officers from captains at an airline — I would never be as respected as my male colleagues.

My point in telling this story is not to rehash an unfortunate tale of workplace discrimination. It’s to prove that we deserve better. Women deserve better.

I’m tired of waiting for change. I’m tired of waiting for the day when society finally tells me that I’m worth more than 82 cents of a dollar.

I know what I’m worth. I have the same amount of training as my male colleagues. I have the same amount of grit and determination.

A society pays for what it values. It’s about time our society starts valuing women.

Jamie Brian is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].