April 4th is Equal Pay Day. It is the day on which we mark how far into the new year the average woman works to make the amount the average man made last year. And we know that women of color work even longer to reach the same mark. Each year I cringe as we “celebrate” this day. I know it’s vitally important to keep raising awareness of the pay equity issue. But I’m tired. I’m tired of years of repeating myself. If we are measuring by the stats, there has been little to no change in moving the needle on pay equity in the last decade.
We here in Montana are familiar with long, slow journeys. If you’ve driven across the state through the night in a snowstorm, you know what I’m talking about. There have been some white-knuckle nights on Homestake Pass that I thought would never end. And then there are those trips home with family in tow, when you stop at Three Forks for a sandwich and at the top of the pass just to take in the brilliant bluebird view, and the time seems to fly.
This year, I’d like to invite you to stop and recognize how far we’ve come. It was just 100 years ago this week that Montana’s own Jeanette Rankin became the nation’s first woman in Congress. And at that time women didn’t even have the right to vote nationwide! We continue to celebrate firsts for women on a monthly basis. More women are achieving higher education in the US than ever before, and are now actually ahead of men by this measure. In Montana, we can now be proud to have an average of about 30% women in our state legislature, putting us in the top 10 states by this measure.
Perhaps even more significant is the fact that as I travel the state speaking about equal pay, I can now honestly say that very few people question whether it is a real issue. We continue to struggle with the best ways to address the pay gap. But we have now come to a shared cultural understanding that if we are going to move toward a more prosperous future, we have to work together to make sure that women are equally represented and equally paid at work. And that’s saying something.
So, this year I invite you to truly celebrate Equal Pay Day on April 4th with me and your sisters and brothers on the slow road to equity. Let’s stop and take note of just how far we’ve come and raise a glass in recognition of the hard work, the strong shoulders and hard won successes along the way.
Join us in a Cheers for Change at 7:40 pm on Tuesday, April 4th at one of seven awesome breweries and distilleries in five Montana communities:
Wildrye Distilling (Bozeman)
Headframe Spirits (Butte)
Bowser Brewing (Great Falls) – Women’s History Trivia starts at 6!
Imagine Nation Brewing (Missoula)
Bonsai Brewing Project (Whitefish)
A portion of the proceeds will go to help fund the work of the Women’s Foundation to close the gender pay gap.
Although our progress is slow, I have to say that I’d rather be trudging alongside you, friends, on the road to equity, than anywhere else in the world. And the view from here, of the future we are building together for our daughters and sons, is breathtaking. Cheers for Change!
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