FORT WAYNE — When Michael Cahill received a call to speak on behalf of Equal Pay Day, he hesitated.
“I’m a 53-year-old white male CEO,” Cahill said. “It almost seems like I’m the wrong face for the day.”
But as he considered it, he realized how important it was that he support the highly qualified women he’d met throughout his career who weren’t given the same opportunities as men, he said.
Tuesday – national Equal Pay Day – denoted how far into 2014 women had to work to earn the same level of income that men earned in 2013.
Women constitute nearly half of the American workforce, according to the latest U.S. Census data, but on average, full-time working women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
YWCA Northeast Indiana hosted a rally Tuesday with representatives from the American Association of University Women, League of American Women Voters, Hope House and the Women’s Bureau. About a dozen supporters took over the sidewalk outside the Spy Run Avenue office, waving signs about pay equity.
Barbara Kanning joined the group on the sidewalk with the same sign she’s used for the past few years. Kanning is a past state president of Indiana’s American Association of University Women, an advocacy group that promotes equality for women and girls.
“These are 3-year-old posters, and the statistics haven’t changed,” she said.
It’s taken 40 years to close the wage gap by 12 cents, and after one year out of college, working women earn less than their male colleagues, even when they work in the same field with the same degree, the poster said.
AAUW and other organizations are working to help women learn how to enter the workforce and negotiate their wages to help close the gap, but change won’t happen overnight, Kanning said.
Cahill, president and CEO of Tower Bank, said he hopes to see more men in leadership positions reaching out to mentor women as they enter the workforce.
“Society does change over time,” he said, adding that change can move at a glacial pace.