'Unhappy Hour' marks Equal Pay Day in St. Pete

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April 10 is National Equal Pay Day. It's a day when people around the country talk about the wage gap between men and women, who’s making more and who’s making less.

The date symbolizes how far into the year women have to work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Tuesday night, a group of women (and a few men) got together for "Unhappy Hour" in St. Pete. "It's obviously not an event or a day that we celebrate," said Kristin Smith, a Financial Advisor.

A gender wage gap is no reason to raise your glass. Instead, the Business and Professional Women of St. Petersburg/Pinellas group toasts to pay equality someday. They gathered at Arts Xchange in the Warehouse Arts District to talk about the issue and share stories.

"We, as women, we need to insist that we be treated fairly," said Smith, "and, you need the transparency in wage laws so that we understand when we aren't being treated fairly."

The National Partnership for Women & Families did an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Data. Compared to every dollar a man employed full-time make makes, they found that white women are paid 79 cents, black women earn 63 cents, and latinas get just 54 cents. Asian women, overall, fare better at 87 cents, but researchers say some ethnic groups of Asian women are paid much less.

Smith sees it firsthand with clients. "Of course, I can't tell Tom what Susan's making, or Jean what Joe's making but I can see the discrepancies in fairly similar careers," Smith said. "Women, couples, whoever, as they're preparing to retire, maybe that retirement gets pushed out 5, 10, 15 years. Or, maybe they can't afford to retire at all and that's the result of a lifetime of inequality."

Wage data for Florida was slightly better. The report found that women here earn about 87 cents to every dollar earned by men. But, in Louisiana and Utah, the gap widens to 30 cents.

"I look forward to the day we can gather for a reason other than this travesty," said St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin at the gathering.

Tomalin and Commissioner Charlie Justice presented proclamations there in support of equal pay.

Abby Blanco, an Assistant Economics Professor at the University of Tampa shares a different perspective.

"We've certainly come a really long way," Blanco said. "We see that women are now in any kind of career that a man been able to do or is currently able to do, whether we are talking about science and engineering or we are talking military positions, we see women in those as well as men."

Looking at the cents to dollar study, Blanco said the data focuses on gross wages between all full-time men and all full-time women, but, there are other variables at play.

"We are not taking into account really important variables which would explain variations in income," Blanco said. "Things like education, the type of career that's selected and the number of hours of worked, tenure. And, when you start taking those variables into account, that gap pretty much all but disappears."

When it comes to part-time jobs, for example, Blanco said women actually tend to earn more than men working in the same jobs. "Women in those positions sometimes earn as much as 110% of what their male colleagues are earning," she said.

But, Blanco recognizes, there's still room left to grow as a society.

After all, this is the 15th year for the "Unhappy Hour."

"It really makes people go aha, I get it, it get it, things are not necessarily equal," said Tami Simms, a real estate agent. "People need to know that they are being treated fairly, paid fairly, for the skill set they are providing, for the education that they bring to the table. If all things are equal, there should be equal pay."

"We need to be aware we need to let our daughters know this is still an issue that they have to grapple with," Smith said. "Hopefully, the gap will be smaller by the time the next generation comes up but it needs to go away."