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News by VICE

Wage Gap Apps Help Women Combat Pay Disparities

Until truly effective legislation is in place, the pressure is on for women to start demanding higher pay.

by Mary Emily O'Hara
Apr 9 2014, 10:30pm

Photo by TaxCredits.net

A day after President Obama signed two new orders designed to prevent disparities in federal contractor’s pay for women and minorities, GOP Senate members blocked the “Paycheck Fairness Act” — legislation intended to hold employers accountable for wage discrimination on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Senate Republicans “don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women.” GOP lawmakers have said previously that the “legislation is redundant,” according to the New York Times.

The blocked bill is likely to return to a vote soon, but in the meantime, Obama-backed legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Act doesn’t seem to have changed much when it comes to wages. The Ledbetter Act makes it easier to fight back against disparate wages years later, but it doesn’t mandate that employers have to pay fairly in the first place.

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Fortunately, there are several apps to help women combat the battle against wage disparities until effective legislation is in place.

Wage Gap Apps

On Monday, the French government tried to help its own severely underpaid mademoiselles by launching a “Leadership Pour Elles” mobile app. It starts off with a quiz to determine how assertive you are, and then advises you on how to be “pushier.”

For the past two years, US women have also had access to wage gap apps.

VICE News spoke with developers of two apps, both winners of a 2012 Department of Labor contest, that aim to help educate people about the gender disparity of average salaries.

According to the White House’s own data, women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households but are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts.

Female White House staffers make 88 cents for every dollar male staffers are paid — which isn’t bad considering census data says most US women only make 77 cents to the dollar. Unless you’re Latina. Then you make do with 55 cents instead.

Texas-based developer and FuzionApps founder Laquitta DeMerchant entered the competition already familiar with the issue.

“I realized that I have a lot of insight into this, because I came from a family where both of my parents had been raised by single mothers,” DeMerchant said. “A woman always has to be in the position to be able to take care of her family at any given moment.”

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With years of experience in the software industry, DeMerchant assumed her negotiating skills would protect her from the wage gap, but then she became a victim.

“A man higher in the company than me actually called me in to tell me, because the gap was just that large,” she said. “This man said ‘you know, you’re working just as hard, you shouldn’t be paid any less.’”

DeMerchant’s app Aequitas shows wage demographics by location and experience level, and though the user pool is small, it had doubled every year since the 2012 launch, to around 3,500 consistent users now.

Another app, Gender Gap, manages to turn the pay disparity into a cartoon-filled interactive game. The strangely addictive, and enraging, game shows players a median salary — say, $59,852 for social service managers and asks whether it represents male or female workers.

The player guesses, and then a window pops up showing the wage gap (sorry, that salary is for men. Women get $13,936 less). Not so fun anymore.

Steve Jernigan, CEO of Gender Gap’s firm Cloudspyre, told VICE News that the game was initially rejected by Apple’s app store twice.

“They said it was offensive. I guess it was too politically charged,” Jernigan said.

After Gender Gap was one of four winners in the Department of Labor contest, he applied again and pointed out that the Secretary of Labor didn’t find the game offensive. It’s been in the app store ever since.

Jernigan himself was surprised when he first played the game.

“I remember thinking ‘wow, there’s a lot bigger gap than I thought,’” Jernigan said.

He said that most feedback has been positive, with the occasional user being opposed to the topic rather than the app itself.

“Either they’re going to love it or they’ll hate it, but either way they’ll get the message,” said Jernigan. He added that he’s invested in the issue because one day his own daughter will enter the workforce: “I want it to be as fair as possible for her.”

DeMerchant stressed the point that in 2014, a lot of women aren’t even aware that a sweeping wage gap still exists.

“They think because they’re making more than their mothers and grandmothers did, it’s fine,” DeMerchant said. “But within 12 months after graduating from college, a man and a woman already have a 10 percent wage gap.”

“What that means is, for every woman out of college who think it doesn’t apply to them, it already has,” said DeMerchant.

Photo by Taxcredits.net