Women's March Attendees Want Equality in the Workplace

Womens March Attendees Want Equality in the Workplace

​Photo by Lisa Nagele-Piazza

​Last year millions of women gathered in cities around the world to send a message of parity to President Donald Trump and other leaders during the first Women's March. This year, demonstrators organized again to encourage people to vote for politicians who will create positive change for women on issues like equal pay and sexual harassment.

Many women at the Washington, D.C., march, concentrated around the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool at the National Mall, said they want to see businesses and lawmakers put an end to wage disparity.

"Equal pay is a big issue," said Maura Hughes, a marketing consultant in Washington, D.C. "The fact that we still don't have it is disappointing."

Pay equity has been in the spotlight recently as states and cities across the country have banned or are considering banning salary history inquiries during the interview process. 

CaliforniaDelawareMassachusetts, Oregon, Puerto Rico, New York City and San Francisco have all passed bans on such questions. Philadelphia also passed a ban, but its effective date has been delayed due to a pending lawsuit challenging the ordinance. 

Covered employers in those jurisdictions will no longer be allowed to ask job applicants how much money they earned in previous roles.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Pay Equity]

The purpose of the laws is to combat gender-based pay inequities that continue over the course of a woman's career. For example, the median weekly income for women who work full time in California is 84.8 percent of the median earnings for men ($775 versus $914), according to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black women and Latinas earn even less.

The new laws aim to help close the gender-based pay gap by prohibiting employers from basing new salary offers on prior earnings that may have been lower for women than men with comparable skills.

"I would like to see women not settle for less than we deserve, including pay," said Tamara Blake, an educational psychologist in Washington, D.C.

The #MeToo Movement

Hughes said that workplace harassment is a big issue, too. "There's been secrecy up until now and women have felt like they were not allowed to talk about it or felt like they'd get punished if they talked about it, but the #MeToo movement has been a big shift and hopefully things will continue to move in the right direction," she said.

Brittany Getch said that the #MeToo movement also inspired her to attend the march and that she would like to see an end to sexual harassment in the workplace.

The #MeToo movement is a campaign against sexual harassment and assault that garnered considerable attention in 2017 as harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in business and politics surfaced. People have used the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share their experiences with sexual harassment or assault and to say that such conduct should not be tolerated.

"We have to have an environment where we can all encourage each other, but the reports of sexual harassment in workplace really underscore that there's a lot of work yet to be done," said Renee Devine, a Women's March attendee who works for an electric utility company in upstate New York. 

March to the Polls

"Women's March has created a powerful movement that has ignited thousands of activists and new leaders," said Tamika D. Mallory, co-president of Women's March, in a press statement. "In 2018, we must turn our work into action ahead of the midterms. This new initiative will address voter registration and voter suppression head on."

Marches also took place in cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Seattle, and the momentum continued the next day. A rally in Las Vegas was held on Jan. 21 in an effort to register a million voters, CBS News reported.

In addition to voter advocates, members of organizations that focus on immigrant rights, women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and reproductive rights, among other causes, attended the march in Washington, D.C.

Julian Teixeira of Power to Decide—a campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy—told SHRM Online that his organization wants to work with heath care providers and employers to ensure women have access to birth control.

"We believe that all women should have the power to decide if, when and under what circumstances they want to get pregnant," said Rachel Fey, the director of public policy for Power to Decide. "The reason I can have the career I have fighting for birth control is because I had access to birth control so I could plan my own future."

Men also showed their support for women's rights. "What the march means to me is that we are finally having a long overdue conversation about how we can help women to advance and feel protected, not intimidated, while doing so," said Justin Livingston, a Boys & Girls Club volunteer from San Marcos, Calif.

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