Equal Pay for Equal Work
Grade Level: Grades 10-12
Estimated Time: One class period
In the 1970s, “white-collar” office workers organized their own union, 9to5, while activists like Mercedes Tompkins supported women moving into “blue-collar” trades.
Excerpt from “A Moment in Her Story: Stories from the Boston Women's Movement,” a film by Catherine Russo. (Running time 1:49) Used with permission. The complete film is available from Catherine Russo Documentaries.
Since World War II, women have attained higher levels of education, increased their time in the paid job market, and made significant inroads in the worlds of work and politics. These changes have resulted in new attitudes about women’s and men’s roles in families and in the workplace. This lesson plan introduces students to women’s efforts to receive equal pay and better working conditions.
Students will be able to demonstrate a broad understanding of how women have fought for workplace equality.
Students will increase their awareness of the role of government in the regulation of business through the enactment of workplace laws.
How do changes in laws contribute to new attitudes about work, family, and community?
How is the struggle for equal pay related to larger struggles for citizenship rights?
Computer with Speakers and Internet Access
This Lesson Plan (PDF)
Warm Up Activity: Film Viewing and Discussion
Show a clip from the film A Moment in Her Story: Stories from the Boston Women’s Movement (1:49 min.), also located above.
Have the students discuss what they have learned from this short clip about the “9 to 5” movement to organize women secretaries and waitresses, and to help women enter nontraditional occupations.
Main Activity: Research and Class Discussion
Explain that in 1963 the United States passed the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 included Title VII, which prohibited gender discrimination in the workplace.
Students can learn more by reading the Click section “Challenging Sex Discrimination.”
Divide the class into four groups.
Have students go to Click’s Workplace & Family chapter and direct their attention to the timeline.
Tell them to find the entries titled “Women’s Paychecks” and to create a chronological list of how much women earned that year, on average, for every dollar earned by men. They should leave spaces between each year.
Next, have them look for events that help explain these paychecks. Tell them these can be both broad changes (such as World War II) or specific events (such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963).
Have them add these events to their chronological list.
Have the students discuss their findings. Guiding questions include:
Has there been progress in closing the pay gap between men and women?
What is the government’s role in determining equal pay?
Why do you think the gender pay gap still exists?
Break the groups into pairs and have them work on completing the following sentence: “Since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, it has been illegal to pay different (unequal) salaries or wages to men and women working similar jobs in the same workplace, however . . . .”
Bring the class back together and have the students share their findings.
Have the students create graphs of their research on women’s paychecks and the gender pay gap. The horizontal axis would include historical events and the vertical axis would contain pay rates.
Ask students to discuss what strategies individuals in different positions might use to ensure equal pay in the workplace. For example, what could a business owner do? An employee? A government investigator?
Have students do research on the recent efforts by the United States Women’s National Soccer Team to receive pay equal to the Men’s National Soccer Team.
Common Core Anchor Standards
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
Speaking and Listening
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
You will find unique content in each chapter’s timeline.
Place the cursor over the timeline to scroll up and down within the timeline itself. If you place the cursor anywhere else on the page, you can scroll up and down in the whole page – but the timeline won’t scroll.
To see what’s in the timeline beyond the top or bottom of the window, use the white “dragger” located on the right edge of the timeline. (It looks like a small white disk with an up-arrow and a down-arrow attached to it.) If you click on the dragger, you can move the whole timeline up or down, so you can see more of it. If the dragger won’t move any further, then you’ve reached one end of the timeline.
Click on one of the timeline entries and it will display a short description of the subject. It may also include an image, a video, or a link to more information within our website or on another website.
Our timelines are also available in our Resource Library in non-interactive format.
Yellow bars mark entries that appear in every chapter
This icon indicates a book
This icon indicates a film
The idea of the “Click! moment” was coined by Jane O’Reilly. “The women in the group looked at her, looked at each other, and ... click! A moment of truth. The shock of recognition. Instant sisterhood... Those clicks are coming faster and faster. They were nearly audible last summer, which was a very angry summer for American women. Not redneck-angry from screaming because we are so frustrated and unfulfilled-angry, but clicking-things-into-place-angry, because we have suddenly and shockingly perceived the basic disorder in what has been believed to be the natural order of things.” Article, “The Housewife's Moment of Truth,” published in the first issue of Ms. Magazine and in New York Magazine. Republished in The Girl I Left Behind, by Jane O'Reilly (Macmillan, 1980). Jane O'Reilly papers, Schlesinger Library.