#PayMe | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

#PayMe 

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In my early 20s, there were five movies in rotation as my go-to bedtime stories. On any given night Godfather, Godfather II, Casino, Tombstone or Goodfellas would lull me off to dreams of ruling the world—by means of legitimate business, of course. The lessons offered in these films were there for the taking, and I loved them.

With the women's movement resurrecting the topic of equal pay amid companies still behaving shadily. I find one Goodfellas line in particular ringing in my ears: "Fuck you. Pay me."

While this sentiment may seem too vulgar or, dare I say, un-ladylike, I would argue it's appropriate since there has not been significant change in the decades women have spent asking politely and "leaning in." At this point, it is perhaps more befitting to the tone we should be taking. The way I see it, any justification a company offers for not paying female employees on par with their male counterparts is bullshit anyway. Why not just lay it all on the table?

Not to mention, the concept behind the line is simple: "Oh, you have this excuse? That's your problem. Pay me." Gender pay equity is perhaps the least-complicated issue our nation currently faces, so why hasn't it been fixed?

To her credit, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to supporting women in business. Especially considering her installment of six weeks' paid family leave for both female and male SLC employees last year. On March 1, she furthered her support of women and family by signing a policy promising to end pay inequity for city employees.

I commend Biskupski for not only addressing this issue head on, but also challenging other Utah cities to look at their current practices. But I fear the Beehive State having the fourth-largest wage gap in the country is telling of a more systemic problem, which will require more than policy change.

Less than a month ago, the Senate Business and Labor Committee refused to discuss a bill presented by Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake, to study the variance of pay between men and women at the state level. Their lack of discourse speaks volumes about the committee's awareness of the issue—as well as their refusal to solve it.

In addition to committees preferring to stick their heads in the sand, it's no secret many Utah companies discovered they could avoid set pay for a set title by simply altering the title of their female employees. I personally know more than a handful of women in careers where their tasks match their male colleagues. Unfortunately, neither their title or pay reflect the job they're actually doing.

On paper, these companies appear to be complying, as only individuals within the organization would be privy to the roles of their coworkers. In order for policy abuse to change, insiders in such companies would have to speak out. And, much like in the #MeToo movement, men will have to lend their voice as well.

Herein lies my main concern. Will men step forward to help alter a broken corporate culture in support of their female colleagues? Given Utah's complicated relationship with how they view women, I'm not so sure.

Not unlike the role women play in mafia and Western films, Utah loves to preach the importance of it's women and children—all the while offering few substantial opportunities for ladies to prosper on their own terms. Women are only as important as their role of supporting cast allows.

It's a role many Utah women know all too well, myself included. Frustrated by a lack of pay—with concrete knowledge I had male colleagues making significantly more—after I had my second child, I decided it was time to take my chances elsewhere. At the time, I had spent a few years submitting manuscripts for publication, and after weighing the probability of being published versus being paid equally, I decided to make a real attempt to become a professional writer.

Sure, the chances of becoming a successfully published author are one in a million, but I reasoned: at least I had a chance. Taking on a system that preferred me in the role of "influencer" seemed more daunting than forging my own path.

Furthermore, since my salary was on the low end, creating my own way meant little financial repercussion to our family budget. Had I continued to work, damn near my entire paycheck would have gone to child care. The choice to walk away from a career almost a decade in the making appeared to have already been made for me.

The decision to work or stay home is a choice women constantly question and feel guilt over. These feelings of doubt are inevitable when so many factors of the decision have been taken out of our hands. If I would have had the lady balls then to demand more—#PayMe—my choice might have been different.

For women to have more power over their own destiny, we need to use changes in policy to achieve results. It's time to stop asking nicely and know our worth. Moreover, our male counterparts need to have our backs. With that, I ask all those aware of the disfunction within their companies: Are you with us?

Aspen Perry is a Salt Lake City-based aspiring author and self-proclaimed "philosophical genius." Send feedback to comments@cityweekly.net

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Aspen Perry

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