MONEY wage gap

The 25 Careers in Which Women Are Most Underpaid

equal pay day wage gap women
Michael Hanson—Aurora Photos Female farmers, on average, earn just 60% of what their male counterparts do.

Females in financial services suffer some of the biggest pay gaps—but farmers don't have it great either.

On this Equal Pay Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge where the greatest strides have yet to be made.

While gals make 78¢ to the dollar that guys do on average, the differential in some professions is much greater. Female securities and financial services sales agents, for example, are the most underpaid professionals compared with their male peers, getting a mere 55¢ per $1 of their counterparts’ compensation.

The Census bureau tracks earnings by gender for more than 500 occupational categories; the table below shows 25 fields where, based on 2013 data, the difference in what she makes and what he makes is the biggest.

(You can discover what each of these fields entails by typing in the category listed at O*Net Online, and find your own field’s pay differential via this Census table.)

Nearly half the jobs on this list are in financial fields. It’s also worth noting that 17 out of 25 are majority male in makeup, compared with half of the fields where the pay gap for women is the smallest.

Need a pick-me-up after this list? Check out The 25 Careers with the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women. And read up on how to reduce the pay gap for yourself, no matter where your own field falls.

Occupational Category % Women in Field Median Earnings, Men Median Earnings, Women % Women’s Earnings to Men’s % Margin of Error
1. Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents 30% $93,795 $51,284 54.7 5.7
2. Financial specialists, all other 55% $81,859 $48,869 59.7 7.5
3. Morticians, undertakers, and funeral dirs. 20% $51,129 $31,023 60.7 10.5
4. Farmers, ranchers,agricultural mgrs. 11% $41,691 $25,310 60.7 5.0
5. Personal financial advisors 31% $98,126 $60,359 61.5 5.5
6. Financial clerks, all other 61% $67,732 $42,122 62.2 5.8
7. Financial analysts 32% $100,081 $63,424 63.4 7.9
8. Financial managers 54% $90,278 $57,406 63.6 2.0
9. Supervisors housekeeping/janitorial 33% $41,180 $26,860 65.2 2.4
10. Production, planning, and expediting clerks 57% $56,437 $37,246 66.0 1.6
11. Credit counselors and loan officers 54% $69,726 $46,394 66.5 4.2
12. Insurance sales agents 45% $61,639 $41,250 66.9 1.4
13. Photographic process and processing machine workers 45% $31,888 $21,348 66.9 14.0
14. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers 30% $36,494 $24,657 67.6 17.5
15. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers 4% $40,865 $27,657 67.7 3.8
16. Dentists 24% $151,071 $102,460 67.8 9.3
17. Tax preparers 52% $70,641 $47,997 67.9 7.1
18. Artists and related workers 36% $54,669 $37,261 68.2 9.0
19. Photographers 40% $44,513 $30,455 68.4 7.0
20. Welders, solderers, and brazers 5% $39,281 $26,893 68.5 3.6
21. Tax examiners, collectors, and agents 65% $66,754 $45,704 68.5 9.5
22. Economists 29% $120,076 $82,427 68.6 10.1
23. Credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks 73% $50,853 $35,037 68.9 10.9
24. Physicians and surgeons 33% $202,533 $140,036 69.1 4.0
25. Cutting workers 20% $31,113 $21,516 69.2 3.5

More from Money.com on equal pay:

The 25 Careers with the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women

5 Ways Women Can Close the Pay Gap for Themselves

The Single Best Thing Women Can Do to Help Themselves in Salary Negotiations

MONEY wage gap

The 25 Careers With the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women

wage gap careers equal pay day
Robert J. Ross—Getty Images On average, female media producers and directors outearn men.

Plus, 9 fields where women actually earn more

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, intended to raise awareness of the fact that women still earn less than their male counterparts. That’s 22¢ to the dollar less on average, in case you haven’t been paying attention.

This date was not chosen randomly: Equal Pay Day is purposely held in April to illustrate the fact that it takes four months into the year for the average woman to catch up to the average man’s earnings from the last year. And it’s on a Tuesday to show how long into the week it takes to match a man’s previous-week earnings.

Of course, in some fields, getting up to par is quicker than others.

The Census bureau tracks earnings by gender for more than 500 occupational categories; the table below shows 25 fields where, based on 2013 data, the difference in what she makes and what he makes is the smallest. (You can find out what each of these fields entails by typing in the category listed at O*Net Online, and find your own field’s pay differential via this Census table.)

As you’ll see, there are nine fields where the average woman actually outearns her male counterpart, though the margins of error on these are high enough as to possibly undo the findings. Also worth noting: Half of the professions in the top 25 are made up of a majority of women, vs. only six of the bottom 25.

Some have argued that if women simply went into higher paying fields they could eliminate a wage discrepancy, but the data argue against that. After all, physicians and surgeons—who take home very healthy paychecks—suffer among the greatest pay discrepancies, with women in these fields making 69% of what men do.

Instead, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, author of Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women, attributes a higher salary differential to the fact that some fields disproportionately incentivize people to work long hours and certain hours. That punishes women who take time out from their careers and require some flexibility in their work lives to raise children.

In aggregate, earnings between men and women are not that different until women enter child-bearing years, Goldin says. “But in some occupations, there isn’t a large penalty for time out of the workforce or shorter hours,” she notes.

What often separates those fields, she says, is that another person with a similar title can take over to serve as a perfect substitute. It’s easier for a woman to leave at 5 p.m. to pick up her kids if information systems or a standardization of product makes handing off her duties costless.

Goldin gives the example of a pharmacist (a profession in which women earn a high 93% of what men do). In that role, a computer system provides access to standard data about the customer, so that the customer needn’t always see the same person.

Okay, good to know, but if your field doesn’t allow this flexibility you likely won’t be able to make changes overnight. Nor are you probably interested in changing industries now just to gain the greater equality offered by the jobs below.

So what can you do? Advocating for yourself and asking the right people to advocate for you can help around the edges.

And Goldin suggests that you might work toward getting the men in your company to work less. The less willing they are to put in long hours without phenomenally more money, she notes, the more likely companies will be to put in place systems that allow workers to be more interchangeable.

“Ironically, rather than women leaning in,” she says, “it’s about getting men to start leaning out.”

 

Occupational Category % Women in Field Median Earnings, Men Median Earnings, Women % Women’s Earnings to Men’s % Margin of Error
1. Media producers and directors 37% $62,368 $66,226 106.2 10.3
2. Cleaners of vehicles and equip. 14% $23,605 $24,793 105.0 9.6
3. Wholesale and retail buyers 49% $41,619 $42,990 103.3 5.9
4. Transportation security screeners 36% $40,732 $41,751 102.5 4.4
5. Social and human service assistants 79% $34,967 $35,766 102.3 11.6
6. Special education teachers 85% $46,932 $47,378 101.0 3.5
7. Transportation, storage, and distrib. mgrs. 18% $52,017 $52,259 100.5 5.5
8. Dishwashers 16% $17,302 $17,332 100.2 7.4
9. Counselors 70% $42,299 $42,369 100.2 2.2
10. Industrial truck/tractor operators 7% $31,002 $30,981 99.9 2.9
11. Massage therapists 76% $29,272 $29,240 99.9 11.1
12. Counter and rental clerks 47% $27,449 $27,194 99.1 19.6
13. Biological scientists 48% $57,653 $57,107 99.1 9.8
14. Tellers 89% $25,564 $25,222 98.7 3.0
15. Musicians, singers, and related 20% $42,988 $42,279 98.4 13.7
16. Misc. personal appearance workers 79% $22,047 $21,632 98.1 4.0
17. Meeting and event planners 81% $47,876 $46,973 98.1 12.7
18. Security/surveillance guards 22% $30,546 $29,883 97.8 4.1
19. Computer network architects 8% $96,549 $94,445 97.8 5.7
20. Social workers 80% $42,821 $41,795 97.6 3.9
21. Computer occupations, all other 23% $66,971 $65,329 97.5 5.0
22. Nonfarm animal caretakers 69% $25,025 $24,401 97.5 9.4
23. Dietitians and nutritionists 88% $49,001 $47,717 97.4 7.7
24. Postal service clerks 50% $54,166 $52,574 97.1 1.5
25. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks 65% $21,995 $21,329 97.0 4.8

More from Money.com on equal pay:

The 25 Careers in Which Women are Most Underpaid Relative to Men

5 Ways Women Can Close the Pay Gap for Themselves

The Single Best Thing Women Can Do to Help Themselves in Salary Negotiations

TIME feminism

Here’s the History of the Battle for Equal Pay for American Women

Equal Pay Day
Craig F. Walker—Denver Post/Getty Images Activists gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, CO, to mark national Equal Pay Day in 2009

The fight for equal pay dates back to the Civil War

Based on national pay-disparity numbers, a hypothetical American woman would have to keep working until roughly April 14, 2015, in order to make the same amount of money as a man doing the same work would have made in 2014 — which is why the activist group the National Committee on Pay Equity has selected Tuesday as this year’s Equal Pay Day. Though the topic will get extra airtime today, the debate about equal pay is nothing new.

In February, 1869, a letter to the editor of the New York Times questioned why female government employees were not paid the same as male ones. “Very few persons deny the justice of the principle that equal work should command equal pay without regard to the sex of the laborer,” the author wrote. “But it is one thing to acknowledge the right of a principle and quite another to practice it.” The author noted that the U.S. Government employed 500 women in the Treasury department, but that they made only half as much as their male colleagues:

“Many of these women are now performing the same grade of work at $900 per annum for which men receive $1800. Most of them, too, have families to support; being nearly all either widow or orphans made by the war.”

That year, a resolution to ensure equal pay to government employees passed the House of Representatives by almost 100 votes, but was ultimately watered down by the time it passed the Senate in 1870.

In 1883, communications across the country ground to a halt when the majority of the workers for Western Union Telegraph Company went on strike, partly to ensure “equal pay for equal work” for its male and female employees (among other demands). The strike wasn’t ultimately successful, but it was a very early public demand for fair pay for women.

By 1911, significant progress had been made. New York teachers were finally granted pay equal to that of their male counterparts, after a long and contentious battle with the Board of Education.

In the 20th century, war was good for women workers. In 1918, at the beginning of World War I, the United States Employment Service published lists of jobs that were suitable for women in order to encourage men in those occupations to switch to jobs that supported the war effort. “When the lists have been prepared…it is believed that the force of public opinion and self-respect will prevent any able-bodied man from keeping a position officially designated as ‘woman’s work,'” the Assistant Director of the U.S. Employment Service said in 1918. “The decent fellows will get out without delay; the slackers will be forced out and especially, I think, by the sentiment of women who stand ready.”

Since women were doing work that men would ordinarily do, the National War Labor Board decided they should be paid the same: “If it shall become necessary to employ women on work ordinarily performed by men, they must be allowed equal pay for equal work.” The same thing happened during WWII, as more women worked in munitions factors and the aircraft industry. During the war effort, equal pay was championed by unions and male workers, although not for entirely altruistic reasons—they were worried that if women were paid less for the same work, management could dilute male workers’ wages after they returned from the war.

After the war ended, the demand for equal pay seemed to lose some steam. In 1947, Secretary of Labor Lewis Schwellenbach tried to get an equal pay amendment passed that would apply to the private sector, arguing, “There is no sex difference in the food she buys or the rent she pays, there should be none in her pay envelope.” But as veterans needed work after the war and women were increasingly expected to stay in the home, Schwellenbach’s bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

National legislation was finally passed in 1963, when John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Law into effect, overcoming opposition from business leaders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who were concerned that women workers were more costly than male ones. When he signed the bill, Kennedy called it a “significant step forward,” and noted that, “It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes.” The next year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, origin, color, religion or sex.

There have been more legal wins for female workers since then. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protected pregnant employees, and the Family and Medical Leave act of 1991 allowed parents regardless of genders to take time off. But despite the fact that women made up almost 58% of the labor force in 2012, they still made only 77 cents for every dollar a man made, according to the National Equal Pay Task Force. In 2009, President Obama chose the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first piece of legislation, which restores some protections against discrimination that had been stripped in a 2007 Supreme Court case, and incentivizes employers to make their payrolls more fair.

But progress is still slow. Last year, a bill that would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who discuss their wages failed in the Senate.

Read TIME’s 1974 take on equal pay, here in the TIME Vault: Wages and Women

TIME feminism

Islamic Feminist: Duke Students Tried To Cancel My Speech. That Made It Even More Important.

American Muslim journalist and author Asra Nomani during Reuters interview.
Mike Segar—Reuters Asra Nomani during an interview in New York on April 6, 2005.

Asra Nomani is the author of “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.”

We must have critical conversations, especially if they make people feel uncomfortable

This past week, University of Michigan students watched American Sniper after the university first cancelled the film’s showing amid protests from an Arab-American Muslim student that the film offended her. The episode at Michigan was like my own painful experience at Duke University after a Muslim student group recently blackballed me.

Tuesday night, while Islamic State fighters gained new ground in Syria, I walked onto a stage at Duke University to argue for a progressive, feminist interpretation of Islam in the world. Staring into stage lights, I counted the number of people looking back at me: nine, not including my parents and son.

“I would have come here to speak to just one person. To me, it is simply a victory to stand before you,” I said.

Five days earlier, the Duke University Center Activities and Events had cancelled my talk after the president of the Duke chapter of the Muslim Students Association sent an email to Muslim students about my “views” and me, alleging that I have a nefarious “alliance” with “Islamophobic speakers” and noting that a Duke professor of Islam, Omid Safi, had “condemned” me. After I asked for evidence against me, the Center for Activities and Events re-invited me. A spokesman for Duke said the university regrets the misunderstanding.

This experience goes beyond feminism to a broader debate over how too many Muslims are responding to critical conversations on Islam with snubs, boycotts, and calls for censorship, exploiting feelings of conflict avoidance and political correctness to stifle debate. As a journalist for 30 years, I believe we must stand up for America’s principles of free speech and have critical conversations, especially if they make people feel uncomfortable.

By standing on stage, I was standing up to the forces in our Muslim communities that are increasingly using tactics of intimidation and smears such as “Islamophobe,” “House Muslim,” “Uncle Tom,” “native informant,” “racist” and “bigot” to cancel events with which they disagree.

These dynamics of silencing are often used against women such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born activist and author of a new book, Heretic. Brandeis University uninvited her from speaking after protests from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Students Association last year, and the Muslim Students Association at Yale University protested her speech at the university last fall.

Friday, organizers of a conference on women and gender at the University of South Dakota defied pitched protests to screen a documentary, Honor Diaries, about crimes Muslim women face, in the name of “honor.” The controversy has been “very upsetting,” writes Miglena Sternadori and Cindy Struckman-Johnson, the event organizers, and the controversy underscores the battle over whose voices are “authentic,” they say.

Last April, Honor Diaries wasn’t as fortunate as American Sniper at the University of Michigan when administrators there cancelled a screening after protests from the Muslim Students Association and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The protesters used a social media hashtag campaign #DishonorDiaries to discredit the film. The University of Illinois also cancelled an Honor Diaries screening after protests from the same Muslim groups. Zainab Zeb Khan, a dynamic Afghan-American activist interviewed in the film, says, “It was a nightmare.” She organized a successful substitute screening at a downtown Chicago theater to allow for dialogue and advocacy. “They are using the same tactics of shame and intimidation used to silence people in our traditional cultures. We can’t allow it,” she says.

Slurs have also been used by Muslims against Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy, author of a new feminist manifesto, Headscarves and Hymens; Syrian-American physician and activist Zuhdi Jasser; Iranian-American writer Melody Moezzi, and many other writers and activists, in an attempt to discredit them inside our communities. “We don’t all need to share the same opinions in order to share the conviction that open debates and discussions within our communities are necessary and should be fostered,” Moezzi says.

In a statement provided to TIME, a Duke University spokesperson said, “Duke is strongly committed to free expression and open discussion of controversial issues…We regret that there was a misunderstanding among our students and staff that made it seem like Ms. Nomani was no longer invited to speak at Duke. Once we became aware of it, Duke immediately let Ms. Nomani know that she was welcomed to speak with our students and the larger community, which she did.”

As I stood on the stage at Duke, just a wireless microphone tucked into my pink kurta, no barrier between the audience and me, I looked out past the stage lights and said: “There are many who want to make us invisible. But I am standing here today because I believe that, if we try, we can be invincible.” There are only two letters separating the two words, I told the audience: “nc,” the abbreviation for North Carolina, and it was appropriate that, there, in that state, I was rejecting invisibility and standing up for invincibility. An Indian-American Sikh feminist smiled and nodded her head in agreement.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

Watch Sarah Silverman Get Serious About Equal Pay

Tells women to "Ask4More" ahead of Equal Pay Day

Sarah Silverman is known for telling jokes that push the limit. But the comedian says that one particular topic evokes the most rage-filled response from critics: equal pay.

“That gets the most violent tweets back,” Silverman says in a video for Levo’s new Ask4More campaign, previewed first by People. It’s so odd. It’s just bizarre.”

To encourage women to ask for the salary they deserve, Silverman teamed up with Levo, an online resource for the career advancement of young women, to help push pay equality.

Read more at People

TIME feminism

This Is Why Women Are Dominating the TIME 100 Poll

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 10

Six women currently sit atop the TIME 100 poll voted on by readers, with all earning a larger percentage of the vote than either President Obama or Pope Francis.

CL of K-Pop group 2NE1 tops the list. The South Korean quartet has broken Billboard records, and CL is about to make a U.S. solo debut. Lady Gaga’s ‘Little Monsters’ fanbase have pushed her to No. 2 — ahead of actress Emma Watson, who became the United Nations Ambassador for the gender equality initiative He for She and is getting support from Harry Potter fans.

Several others in the top 10 have used their podium to speak out about gender equality this year.

Beyoncé, who graced the cover of last year’s TIME 100 issue, has built an even bigger following with remixes to tracks on her Beyoncé album and show-stopping performances at the Grammys and VMAs. During the latter, Beyoncé helped push the other the F-word into the spotlight by performing in front of a backdrop that simply read “feminist.”

Taylor Swift spoke about how Lena Dunham taught her about feminism and encouraged her fans who believe in gender equality to embrace the label, too. And another TIME 100 alum, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, won the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the first non-artist to make the top 10, thanks to her commitment to making education available to girls and women worldwide.

Barack Obama, Rihanna, Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama currently round out the top 10.

Cast your vote by commenting on any TIME Facebook post that includes #TIME100, or tweet your vote using the #TIME100 hashtag.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 10, and the winner will be announced April 13. This year’s official TIME 100 list will be announced April 16.

TIME feminism

The Forgotten Link Between World War I and Women’s Rights

Peace Delegates
Library of Congress / Getty Images Portrait of American delegates to the International Congress of Women aboard the Noordam, 1915.

A century ago, the Women’s Congress met with the aim of revolutionizing a ravaged political landscape

History Today

 

 

 

This post is in partnership with History Today. The article below was originally published at HistoryToday.com.

More than 1,100 women from warring and neutral states gathered at The Hague in April 1915 for a special set of peace negotiations. They were not diplomats representing states and they were not present to press national demands. Most were unable even to vote in parliamentary elections in their own countries. They were feminists and pacifists and it was their commitment to these twin ideals that drew them together as conflict raged across Europe.

Their vision of a peace founded on gender equality, social justice and human rights did not bring the war to a close. Nor was it embraced by the male powerbrokers meeting in Paris in 1919 to conclude peace terms. Yet the Women’s Congress of 1915 is important because it reminds us that the First World War not only mobilized armies but nurtured alternative forms of politics, not least the politics of international cooperation and peace.

Who were the women at The Hague? They were mainly middle-class, well-traveled and experienced feminist activists, many with professional backgrounds and all advocates of women’s suffrage. They included the British lawyer Chrystal Macmillan, Aletta Jacobs, the pioneering Dutch physician, the Hungarian feminist Rosika Schwimmer and the trade unionist Lida Gustava Heymann of Germany. The US peace campaigner Jane Addams agreed to preside as chair of the Congress.

Many traveled to the Netherlands at personal cost, encountering hostility from the patriotic publics of the belligerent nations. In Britain, anti-war campaigners were placed under official surveillance. As a result, only 20 of the 180-strong British delegation were issued with passports and even they found it impossible to cross the North Sea due to military operations. The three British women who reached The Hague had either traveled some weeks earlier or went by a different route.

Taking a stand against the war was, furthermore, a difficult experience emotionally for many of the delegates. They found themselves in conflict with suffragist comrades who chose a different course, seeing the war as an opportunity to prove themselves loyal citizens and hence convince their respective governments to grant women the vote.

After four days of discussions and debates, the Congress agreed a set of 20 resolutions encompassing practical proposals for immediate negotiations to end the war, as well as fundamental principles for a permanent peace. Among the latter were the right of self-determination for all peoples; the creation of an international authority to arbitrate disputes and advance constructive cooperation between nations; and an end to ‘secret diplomacy’ conducted behind closed doors and without democratic accountability.

Women’s rights were central to this blueprint. All delegates wishing to attend were required from the outset to pledge their support for women’s suffrage, which the Congress organizers saw as inseparable from the objective of peace. A just world free of conflict, they argued, was impossible to achieve unless women were allowed to take their place alongside men as equal citizens. Enfranchisement, they claimed, would make peace more likely because of the role that women played as mothers in creating the life which war extinguished. Women, in the words of Jane Addams, ‘who have brought men into the world and nurtured them until they reach the age for fighting, must experience a peculiar revulsion when they see them destroyed, irrespective of the country in which these men may have been born’.

Despite the efforts of Addams and others to win support for their proposals after the Congress had closed, both women and their concerns were marginal to the negotiations in Paris in 1919, led by the victorious powers. Not one woman was appointed as a formal representative of her nation at the Peace Conference and while a small contingent of feminists traveled to Paris to lobby the official delegates, their demands fell on deaf ears. The US President, Woodrow Wilson, briefly raised the question of women’s political representation with his fellow plenipotentiaries, but few wished to see women’s rights recognized as a legitimate matter for international agreement. Where the Hague women saw peace and gender equality as fundamentally interlinked, the great powers in Paris were anxious to keep them separate, with women’s citizenship firmly under the control of national governments.

Given this failure, why is it worth remembering the 1915 Women’s Congress at The Hague? The history of seemingly lost causes can tell us a great deal about how power works and, in this case, why women remained peripheral to international politics and diplomacy for so much of the 20th century. Today, the United Nations Security Council passes resolutions about women’s inclusion in conflict resolution; governments host summits on rape as a weapon of war; and powerful non-governmental organizations ensure women are given a voice in debates about human rights, development and security. But history shows us that these achievements have been hard fought and won. They stand as testament to the efforts of generations of feminists who worked to make women’s rights an international, and not just a national, concern.

It would be too simplistic to draw a line of continuity between the Women’s Congress of 1915 and today’s policy debates. Much took place in the interim to reconfigure the global women’s rights agenda, from interwar Fascism and the Cold War to the fall of European empires and the rise of new superpowers at the century’s end. Nonetheless, at this moment when the legacy of the First World War is uppermost in the public mind, it is worth reflecting on how that conflict produced, through the voices of the women who gathered at The Hague, an analysis of the modern world in which gender equality, social justice and peace were intertwined. It is an analysis which endures a hundred years on.

Helen McCarthy is Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary University of London.

TIME politics

Exclusive: Read a 9-Year-Old’s Letter to Obama About Putting a Woman on U.S. Currency — and His Response

Image courtesy of Kim B., Sofia's mother Sofia, the girl who wrote to Obama asking him to put a woman on U.S. currency

"Why don’t women have coins or dollar bills with their faces on it?"

The little girl who asked Obama last year why there aren’t any women on U.S. bills has finally gotten a letter back from the President — and she’s invited to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

President Obama made waves last year when he mentioned he had received a letter from a little girl asking him to put some women on U.S. currency, which he called a “pretty good idea.” That letter was from Sofia, a Massachusetts girl who was just finishing third grade at the time.

“I was studying Ann Hutchinson, who stood up for women’s rights,” she says. “Almost everyone who chose a boy, on their poster they had pictures of different dollar bills or coins with their person on it. So I noticed, why don’t women have coins or dollar bills with their faces on it?”

Sofia, now 9, knew immediately what she had to do. “I just came home from school and said, ‘I need to write to the president.’” Sofia’s mother provided her letter exclusively to TIME:

Kim B. (Sofia's mother)
Image courtesy of Kim B., Sofia’s mother

For a while, Sofia didn’t hear anything back from the President. She says she “sort of forgot about it” until her dad showed her the President had mentioned her letter in a speech. “I was really excited about it, because I thought that maybe it would actually happen,” she says.

In the months since Sofia wrote to Obama, a campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill has gone viral. The W20 movement is hosting an online poll so the public can vote on which woman should replace Andrew Jackson. The group plans to petition Obama and the Treasury Secretary to make it happen. Almost 220,000 people have voted in the online poll so far. And Sofia, who is now in fourth grade, is a junior ambassador for the campaign.

MORE 10 Countries That Put Women on Cash Before the U.S.

Even though she’s a longtime fan of Ann Hutchinson, Sofia wants to see Rosa Parks on the $20. “What she did was really important,” she says. “If it wasn’t for her, we’d still be segregated today.” She got her whole class to vote in the online poll, and her third grade teacher got her class to vote as well.

Last month, Sofia finally got a personalized letter back from the President, along with an invitation to attend this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll. Here’s what President Obama wrote to her:

Unknown-1
Image courtesy of Kim B., Sofia’s mother

“The women you listed and drew make up an impressive group,” Obama wrote. “And I must say you’re pretty impressive, too.”

“I’ll keep working to make sure you grow up in a country where women have the same opportunities as men, and I hope you’ll stay involved in issues that matter to you,” he continued. “If you keep focusing in school and trying to help others whenever you can, there are no limits to what you can accomplish.”

Sofia wants to be a teacher or a scientist when she grows up — after a younger friend was diagnosed with cancer, she decided she wants to study cures. But she also has some advice for other kids her age who want to make a difference. “Write a letter to somebody important,” she says, “because something could happen and it could actually change.”

Read next: The Campaign to Get a Woman on the $20 Bill Is Picking Up Steam

TIME feminism

Pay Cheerleaders What They’re Worth

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Paul Moseley — MCT/Getty Images The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Marina Adshade is a professor of economics at the Vancouver School of Economics a the University of British Columbia and the author of "Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love." David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He is the lead author of "The Wages of Wins" and "Stumbling on Wins."

It's time to guarantee cheerleaders are properly compensated

How would you like it if there were beautiful women whose only job was to keep you entertained? Women who kept their bodies toned to your exact specifications; spent thousands of dollars on their hair, makeup and clothing so they always looked their best for you; and had invested in years of training to do complicated acrobatics designed to bring you joy. Now add to this fantasy that these women brought you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits and you give them almost nothing in return. Sound like a fairy tale? It should be.

For decades, National Football League teams have skirted the issue of paying cheerleaders fair wages by acting as if cheerleaders were not their employees. This despite the fact that cheerleaders work 42 weeks a year, practice several times a week, attend corporate and charitable team events, are photographed for promotional media and paraphernalia, and, of course, entertain fans during games.

In court case after court case, teams have argued that because cheerleaders are independently contracted through third parties, the multi-billion dollar organizations whose business interests they promote are not obliged to pay them anything close to compensation required by state labor laws. And in court case after court case, judges have disagreed and ordered teams to pay their cheerleading squads millions of dollars in back wages.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently agreed to pay up to $825,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by cheerleaders who were paid just $100 a game. Prior to a lawsuit settled last September, the Oakland Raiders were paying their cheerleaders an hourly wage of just $5. Now, after the $1.25 million settlement, the Raiderettes can look forward to the same income as the team’s other minimum-wage employees.

In California, legislation proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in January would require professional sports teams to recognize cheerleaders as their employees and pay them at least the state-mandated minimum wage. Gonzales, herself a former collegiate-level cheer athlete, has said that it hardly seems fair to pay cheerleaders, with all their specialized training and the risk of physical injury, less than the staff selling beers in the stands.

So are cheerleaders only worth the minimum wage? Standard economic theory indicates that in free markets, workers are paid their value to their employers. Anything less is worker exploitation.

Eric Smallwood, senior vice president at Front Row Marketing, has estimated that the TV appearances of cheerleaders on game days alone are worth about $8.25 million to the NFL, or $317,000 per year for each team in the league. Cheerleaders also provide value by promoting ticket sales and promoting the NFL brand.

So why are they paid so little?

According to National Federation of State High School Associations there are almost 400,000 individuals participating in high-school level cheerleading in the United States. Opportunities for professional cheerleaders are limited, however, given that there are only 26 NFL teams that currently have cheerleading squads (the Buffalo Bills disbanded its squad after a lawsuit last year). This suggests that the supply of cheerleaders exceeds demand. Such a labor market hands bargaining power to the employers, allowing them to negotiate down wages.

You might be wondering why this isn’t a problem for other athletes, many of whom are well paid for their contribution to their teams despite the fact that they face fierce competition from other would-be players. Historically, this had been a problem, and the only reason we no longer hear about it is that those players fought for the fair wages they are paid today.

In the first half of the 20th century, many professional sports leagues used their bargaining power to limit the pay of athletes. In the latter half of the century, though, many restrictions on player wages were eliminated leading to significant increases in player pay. For this reason, the share of its revenue that Major League Baseball paid to its players increased from 17% in 1956 to 53% in 2012. Over the same period, the National Football League increased the share of its revenue paid to players from 32% to 52%. Even the English Football League has had to increase the share of its revenue it pays to players, up from 38% in 1958 to 76% in 2013.

Studies indicate that similar stories can be told today about student athletes at American colleges and universities.

Perhaps you think that cheerleaders aren’t really being exploited for the same reason that people in the past didn’t think players were being exploited: because these athletes really love to play their game. Or perhaps you think that cheerleaders should be willing to work for very little because there are other benefits to the job, such as access to other employment opportunities or even better marriage markets. So what difference does it make if sports teams exploit their workers?

Worker exploitation has nothing to do with how much someone likes their job, or how much that job improves a worker’s other prospects, or whether or not the job can help her fulfill other life goals. If the NFL genuinely wants to address the perception that it has no respect for women (who make up 45% of its fan base), one place to start would be to guarantee that the women who do the most to promote the brand are properly compensated.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

Shailene Woodley Still Adamant She’s Not a Feminist

"To me it’s still a label"

Shailene Woodley still doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

Last year, Woodley told TIME she was against the use of the term as “I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.” Promoting her latest film Insurgent, 23-year-old Woodley posed for NYLON’s April cover and elaborated on her evolving thoughts on feminism:

“The reason why I don’t like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me it’s still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves.”

MORE: Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist

She also objects to the media scrutiny of everything she says. “I mean, if we spent as much energy focusing on the genocide that’s going on right now in parts of Africa as we spent on that one article, think about what we could accomplish,” she said, although it was not immediately clear from NYLON’s excerpt to which article she was referring. “Change is not going to come from focusing on the small things that actors say.”

[NYLON]

 

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