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Students advocate “Equal Pay Day”

Brigid Feeney | Wednesday, April 18, 2012

While many students spent yesterday afternoon in class or at lunch, junior Laura Corrigan and senior Cat Cleary advocated for equal pay. The Saint Mary’s students stood on the steps of the South Bend courthouse with Mayor Pete Buttigieg as he declared yesterday “Equal Pay Day.”

“Equal Pay Day” is a recognized day across the nation intended to promote awareness for the fact women are paid less money than man, Cleary said.

“It takes a woman 15 and a half months to earn what a man makes in a year,” she said. “Women earn 77 cents for every one dollar men earn. People will brush this issue off and say it isn’t relevant, but it is.”

Corrigan and Cleary, sponsored by a grant provided by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), have been working all semester on projects and programs that promote the mission of the AAUW.

“The mission of the AAUW is to break through barriers for girls and women,” Cleary said.

During Spring Break, Cleary and Corrigan decided they wanted to devise a way to promote “Equal Pay Day” in the South Bend community. After reaching out to the local AAUW branch, the League of Women Voters of the South Bend area, the South Bend Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Indiana University South Bend, Corrigan and Cleary drafted a letter to Mayor Buttigieg. The letter requested the mayor commemorate April 17 and bring awareness to the issue.

“We wanted to draw attention to this issue,” Corrigan said. “[Women] have a lifetime of earnings ahead of us. Think how much money that is – the wage gap really adds up.”

At noon on Tuesday, the mayor honored the letter’s request.

During a press conference with reporters, business men and women and other community leaders, Mayor Buttigieg declared April 17 “Equal Pay Day.” The declaration was in sync with other organizations, protests and events throughout the nation also dedicated to promoting equal pay.

“We were one small part of a larger movement,” Cleary said.

“There were larger movements occurring all across the country.”

Corrigan and Cleary said the process was relatively smooth and they were not worried about making their hopes of “Equal Pay Day” in South Bend a reality.

“I know Buttigieg is very committed to social issues,” Cleary said. “I wasn’t worried; I knew we would have his support for this issue.”

Corrigan agreed with Cleary, saying Mayor Buttigieg was a valuable assets to their work to promote “Equal Pay Day” in South Bend.

“[Buttigieg] said it was important that men should care about this issue, too,” she said. “It’s not just a woman’s issue. It is important that everyone is aware about this problem.”

Contact Bridget Feeney at bfeene01@saintmarys.edu