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Taking to the streets over wage inequality

Equal Pay Day — April 8 in the U.S. — represents the point in the new year that American women typically have to work to earn the same amount as their male counterparts during the previous calendar year.

About 10 volunteers from Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges were in downtown Northampton during Arts Night Out to distribute information about the issue and invite people to take a brief survey soliciting their opinions on several aspects of gender-based pay inequality.

Leigh Edwards, 23, is a Mount Holyoke student and the policy adviser intern for MotherWoman, the Hadley-based mother’s advocacy group which created the survey.

Edwards said the common statistic of white American women earning about 77 cents per dollar earned by their male counterparts is accurate, but that gap will more likely be closed by policy changes rather than outright across-the-board raises.

“The wage gap is much deeper than that,” she said.

Edwards said workplace policies such as paid sick time, paid maternity and paternity leave and others can make up a significant portion of the gap when salaries are averaged.

“The gender wage gap can be decreased,” she said.

The news gets worse for women of color, according to MotherWoman, which said black women earn 64 cents on the dollar earned by men and Latina women earn 54 cents per dollar.

Edwards said that when confronted with the statistics, many men who agreed to take the survey Friday night were “surprised and disappointed.”

The 12-question survey is available online at MotherWoman.org until April 25.

After that, Edwards said the data will be collected and a summary of the results should be available by early May. Edwards said it will be used to see which wage policies are of most concern to respondents and to adjust the mission statement for MotherWoman.

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