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Author advises how women can remedy their wage gap



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``Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men - And What to Do About It,'' by Evelyn Murphy with E. J. Graff (Touchstone, 352 pages, $24.95)

Subtract 23 cents out of every dollar a man makes week after week, month after month, year after year, and over time that adds up to some serious money. That's the money women are missing out on, says Evelyn Murphy, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

In her eye-opening and sometimes shocking book, ``Getting Even,'' the founder and president of The WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Project, estimates that over the course of a working lifetime, a woman could lose up to $2 million because of sex discrimination in the workplace.

In her breakdown of that estimate, Murphy suggests that a female high school graduate will lose $700,000 because of sex discrimination; a female college graduate will lose $1.2 million; and female professional school graduate will lose $2 million.

"That graduate may be you. Or she may be your daughter, niece, granddaughter, or young friend. Whoever she is, the wage gap will take a heavy toll. What would you do with another $700,000, $1,200,000, or $2,000,000 over your lifetime?" asks Murphy.

The author finds it unconscionable that the "wage gap" - the differential between the average pay of men and women - has been stalled in the same place since 1993. Women, she says, now earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. But that comparison, she points out, doesn't tell the whole story because the situation is getting worse instead of better.

"No one, of course, would see that money in a single lump sum," Murphy writes. "Instead, it's subtracted from our lives bit by bit: food we couldn't buy, homes we couldn't afford, credit cards we couldn't pay off. With 77 cents to a man's dollar, women have less money to buy basics. Yet prices are the same whether you are female or male, rich or poor. Which means that once a woman buys one staple, she has less money left over for the next."

The situation is even worse for African-American and Hispanic women; Murphy says African-American women make only 70 percent of what men earn and Hispanic women make only 58 percent.

Because of the wage gap, she points out, women are less able to save for the education of their children and for retirement. Women past retirement age receive only 58 percent of what retired men bring in, Murphy says.

The author breaks out the factors that she says contribute to the wage gap. Among them: "Plain old discrimination" in pay and promotions based on sex; wage discrimination by sexual harassment; disparities based on differences between "men's work" and "women's work"; everyday discrimination; and the "mommy penalty."

Although Murphy supports her contentions with copious statistics, it is the testimonies of scores of women who have felt the sting of sex discrimination that make ``Getting Even'' a compelling and convincing read.

Murphy extracted many of those stories from statements of plaintiffs in hundreds of successful sex-discrimination lawsuits. Among those stories are truly shocking accounts of sexual harassment at some of America's best-known companies.

Calling sexual harassment "terrorism on the job," Murphy points out that it can have serious financial and career consequences for women.

"After long and repeated sexual harassment, women leave or lose their jobs, potential raises, promotions, opportunities, emotional stability, ability to work and sometimes lives," she writes.

The author presents a plan for eliminating the wage gap entirely within 10 years. That plan involves getting women to document discrimination against them on the job; having them work with and on behalf of other women to combat the problem; persuading executives to address the problem from the top down; and leaning on government to strictly enforce civil-rights legislation already on the books, while urging legislators to close any remaining loopholes.

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(c) 2005, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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