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Dr. Jill Biden reveals why the fight for equal pay is personal for her

"How do we value women when they have to work three months and 24 days longer to make the same amount as their male colleagues?" the first lady asked.

Dr. Jill Biden reveals why the fight for equal pay is personal for her
Cover Image Source: U.S. first lady Jill Biden delivers remarks during an Equal Pay Day event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 24, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday revealed that pay disparity is an issue that has affected her personally. Speaking at a White House event to promote Equal Pay Day, Dr. Biden — a longtime educator — remembered how the excitement of bagging her first teaching job was drained upon learning that she would be paid 25 percent less than a man who was hired at the same time and had the same level of experience. "When I got my first teaching job, I was thrilled. After years of getting my degree and substitute-teaching, I was finally going to be able to start the career I had been dreaming about," she recalled in her remarks, reports ELLE.


"And then I found out that they were paying me only 75 percent of what they were paying the man who was hired at the same time. I couldn't believe it," the first lady continued. "It wasn’t just the money—though that was unfair. It was the lack of respect—the discrimination. Why was my work worth less? We were working the same hours, teaching the same number of students, and had similar experience. That was in 1975. And today, all these years later, there are women who are in the exact same position."


"This is personal to me because it's personal to all women. It's one example of how we still treat women differently than men. It's wrong. And as this pandemic widens the income and wealth gap between men and women, it's urgent. Because this issue is bigger than the number on a check," Dr. Biden added. According to an analysis from the National Women's Law Center, 100% of the jobs lost in December belonged to women. Women lost a total of 156,000 jobs in December, while men gained 16,000 jobs that same month.


"During the coronavirus pandemic, we saw how women disproportionately shouldered the burden of care. Far too many women go without access to paid leave and affordable child care options and as a result, many are forced to decide between losing income or caring for their family — and many have lost their jobs entirely," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., told USA Today. She added that there is "a long way to go to achieve economic equality for women. The data is abundantly clear that this inequality still exists." Maloney — chairwoman for the House Oversight Committee — examined the pay gap, the disproportionate inequalities women of color face, and discussed several pieces of "feminist legislation" in a hearing yesterday where she heard from witnesses like U.S. Women's National Team soccer star Megan Rapinoe.


Rapinoe also attended the White House's Equal Pay Day event, where she explained how she felt "devalued" while working as a professional soccer player. Pointing to the success of the US Women's National Team — winning four World Cup championships, four Olympic gold medals, filling stadiums, and more — Rapinoe said: "Despite those wins, I've been devalued, I've been disrespected, and dismissed because I am a woman. And I've been told that I don't deserve any more than less because I am a woman."


"Our work gives us a sense of purpose. It's often how we make our mark on the lives of others—and the world," Dr. Biden added in her remarks. "For me, teaching isn't just a job, it's a part of who I am. That's why, when I became First Lady—the honor of a lifetime—I also knew I had to do it while holding on to this piece of myself. I had to keep teaching. As Joe's dad used to say, a job is more than a paycheck. But our paychecks reflect how we are valued—by our employers and even by our communities."


"How do we value women when they have to work three months and 24 days longer to make the same amount as their male colleagues? How do we value the Black and Latina women who have to work many months more, to make that same number?" she asked. "Equal work deserves equal pay, no matter who does it. Since my first teaching job, we've made progress in many ways—but I don't want my granddaughters to have to fight this same battle. I don't want them to worry about getting paid less solely based on their gender. It's past time to pay women equally."

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