Full-time working women in Indiana and Illinois make on average about $11,500 less than their male counterparts, according to U.S. Census Data.
Women in both states worked until April 11, 2011, to earn what their male equivalents did in 2010, as men’s weekly paychecks tally about $150 more than women.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the pay issue has been improving over the past few decades — from women making 62 percent as much as men in 1979 to making about 80 percent in 2009.
That gap is closing at a rate of less than half a cent each year, and discrimination issues recently have come to a head with what could be the largest class-action lawsuit in history. Female Walmart workers who were employed any time after 1998 are trying to sue the corporate giant on a variety of discrimination claims — including that it does not pay women as much as men or offer equal opportunities for promotions.
Walmart is arguing the class-action suit is too large and covers a variety of situations that cannot be lumped into one case. The U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments at the end of March, will decide whether the federal case can continue encompassing such a large pool of plaintiffs.
An employee at a Lake County Walmart, who would not give her name for fear of retaliation, said there are a lot of discriminatory practices that go on at the store. But she said women feel stuck and are scared to speak out to anyone.
“What can we do?” she said. “Work. Because we need to make our money.”
Walmart did not respond to requests for comment.
Identifying discrimination is not easy because it is difficult to define equality when no two people are exactly alike, said Jaishankar Raman, an associate professor of economics at Valparaiso University.
“That’s part of the problem,” he said. “It is very easy to justify the woman is doing something different and the man is doing something different, and the man gets a higher salary than the woman.”
The wage gap is perpetuated when employers claim the skill needed for one position is slightly different from the other, he said, when in practice they are essentially the same.
Companies actually try to keep gender and race out of the equation when doing salary audits, human resource veteran Desila Rosetti said.
“(Salary) shouldn’t be based as much on the person as it should be based on the position,” said Rosetti, who now owns the Chesterton employee training and development company, Organizational Development Solutions Inc.
And because salary is typically viewed as personal information, many employees might not know if a disparity exists.
“Usually it doesn’t hit you like a board,” Rosetti said. “Usually you don’t even know that it’s happened, at least until someone brings it to your attention. Then it’s your job as a manager, not just as the director of HR, to go back and look at those things.”