A book club could be a great kickoff event. If you’re looking for ideas for your first discussion, consider Lilly Ledbetter’s Grace and Grit. Ledbetter’s story has become one of the most important and prominent narratives in the current fight for paycheck fairness. Lilly Ledbetter worked for nearly two decades at Goodyear before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the same work. The Supreme Court ruled against her in her suit against Goodyear, finding that she had waited too long to take action and, thus, had foregone the opportunity to raise the issue of her unequal wages. Subsequently, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a crucial step forward in the fight for equal pay. But the Fair Pay Act is not a complete solution, and Ledbetter is neither the first nor the last woman to face discrimination in the workplace.
Ledbetter will be speaking at WRJ Assembly 2015 and receive the WRJ Jane Evans Pursuit of Justice Award. We encourage you to read her book, and discuss it with your sisterhood, congregation, and community using our discussion guide.
Break up into small groups to discuss the Equal Pay Living Talmud.
Advance research may be needed prior to this discussion in order to gather information about synagogue policies and employee compensation.
Consider the employees of your congregation: clergy, program and educational professionals, administrative staff, teaching staff, maintenance team, and any others. Divide them into categories to consider the needs and circumstances of each group. Are men and women in each cohort paid equally? If not, why? Perhaps they have served for different lengths of time or have different levels of experience, which might explain pay differences. But perhaps such experiential differences do not account for any pay gap. Discuss your findings as a group.
If an unexplainable discrepancy exists, how would you approach your congregational leadership to discuss it? What questions would you want to ask them? What information would you need to empower you to have those conversations? If time permits, take the opportunity to develop a list of questions to bring to congregational leadership regarding any pay inequities that may exist.
Practice having those conversations with fellow participants standing in as congregational leaders. What objections might they have? How would you respond to those objections?
Develop a plan to investigate your congregational practices and address any inequities you uncover.
By mentoring women entering the workforce, we can share our experiences to help them strengthen key skills and expand their professional networks. Mentorships can benefit women of all ages, helping them to improve negotiating skills and to learn ways to navigate biases against women who negotiate. The American Association of University Women, for instance, runs workshops to provide young people with tips and tools for negotiating salaries; WRJ women could get involved with AAUW or create a model program within their own synagogues.
Consider starting a program to provide leadership skills training and pre-college and career mentorship for young women in your synagogue. Building relationships with the next generation of women will help foster connections with WRJ before a young woman might join a synagogue on her own, and will also engage a broader, multi-generational community of women in your sisterhood’s efforts toward equal pay.
Pay inequity remains a concern within the Jewish community. A recent CCAR salary survey showed significant disparity between male and female rabbis who are similarly situated in terms of congregational size and years of experience. The ‘glass ceiling’ in the Jewish Federation world is well known, indicating that pay inequity manifests not only in the form salary disparities but also in the form of a gender imbalance in leadership positions. WRJ women can take the lead in their community by ensuring their congregation examines its own paycheck fairness, and they can extend that investigation into other, local Jewish communal institutions. Highlighting these issues within the local Jewish press may be part of such an effort.