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Is Pope Francis the Pope I’ve always dreamed would come along? As a life-long Catholic Feminist (that’s awkward), I’d love to say yes. So far I’d say maybe. But today he certainly won points with me and possibly humanity in general.

My impression of this pope is complex and I won’t go into all of it, but it is mostly like this- he is a deeply conservative man in a deeply conservative institution who is trying to get in touch with the original mission of the church as he sees it. Despite today’s nice words, he’s not been all that much of an advocate for women. No female in the clergy! No surprise there. No birth control in the third world, though, is a disappointing move as this is what impoverishes, enslaves and overpopulates our most impoverished countries. 

Today’s statement is interesting to me especially in the way that it actually appeared as a whole, just a statement woven into a much more conservative speech about the awesomeness of marriage. This seems to be his way of dropping the bombs, just little statements that mean an awful lot sandwiched in between conventional dogma. I enjoy imagining his handlers and Vatican authorities when he does that. Must be a lot of hand-wringing behind the scenes.

As far as the equal pay item goes, well duh. But thank you very much for saying it. I was shocked when I started work as an architect and one day realized that I was being paid, and occasionally treated, like a second class citizen. Men with the same education and skills were payed more and got respect immediately. I betcha none of my male colleagues had their hair smelled by a firm partner. And there was that one time a firm hired a gray haired man to present my work because it wouldn’t look right for a young girl to present a project. Seriously. And I got payed less for all of that?

It was shocking to be of my generation and be treated like that, I thought it was something that happened to women in the past. You aren’t told what you should be paid, you guess and hope you’re right. I didn’t know what to ask for. I was chronically underpaid. I was too shy to ask for what I was worth. And I think that is what the system bets on. Nobody discusses their salary because it isn’t “polite”. This creates mystery and plays to an employers game in which they hold all of the cards. It’s like playing Marco Polo but at really high stakes.

Francis is right, we are underpaid, but we have ourselves partly to blame. One of the things I love about my employer is that our salaries are transparent. It’s a hierarchy with goals. You want to make more? Work more. Earn seniority. Age and gender are irrelevant. Maybe not every business and job can do that, but I am glad mine does. It’s just fair. So here’s an idea. Make salaries transparent. Make it a movement. Everyone, right now, go to the fridge in your office and post a list. Let everyone write their name and salary on it.

There will be embarrassment, surprise and maybe anger. But you’re breaking the system of secrecy. Once everyone sees the lay of the land, compares their skills and has a chance to truly understand their worth, fair pay would be the result. Nobody loses, except maybe the employers who have to be more honest. But maybe this thing catches on and employers of the future will boast that they have a transparent salary system. That would attract people to work for them, it would certainly attract my attention. 

So go, post your salary on the office fridge, or a sign on your cubicle or write it in Sharpie on your forehead. Whatever. Tell everyone that the Pope himself told you to. Break the system, you never know, you may get a raise out of it. If you’re a woman you probably will. There is only one certainty, knowledge is power.

AWS Staff

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