All things being equal, women in the work place are not. This is not an opinion, this is fact--fact based on exhaustive studies spearheaded by the Department of Labor and several other government agencies on an annual basis for many years.

April 8, 1999, Equal Pay Day, symbolized the point in the year when a woman's wage finally equals that earned on average by a man with equivalent experience and education the year before. What does this discrepancy add up to over the course of a woman's career? About half a million dollars. I don't know about you, but I could use a half mil by the time I turn 65. The National Committee on Pay Equity, in conjunction with the White House Administration, set aside this day to bring to light the disparity between male and female salaries. Nationally, men with similar experience and education earned on average 33 percent more money than women in 1998. This wage gap has fluctuated very little in the last 10 years.

In the conference and trade show industry, wage gaps follow the national trend. This magazine's recent salary survey (June 1999) confirms this. Female exposition directors/managers lagged 36 percent behind their male counterparts. Female meetings directors/managers trailed by 24 percent. Other industry surveys support these findings. Women seem to close the wage gap only when they make senior level status or have over a dozen years' work experience.

Equal pay for equal work is supposed to be the law of the land. Unfortunately, because the current law (1963's Fair Pay Act) has many loopholes, the EEOC has difficulty enforcing its measures. Further, employers who knowingly discriminate with women's wages not only cheat their female employees, but they also unfairly compete with those businesses that conscientiously comply with the law.

Members of AFEMCO (Association of Female Exhibit Managers and Convention Organizers) have ranked pay equity number-one on their legislative agenda. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, most men feel as strongly about pay discrimination as women, including AFEMCO's male members, who ranked pay equity their number-one legislative concern. Studies show again and again that U.S. workers want to be compensated based on the work they perform, and not on their gender or other factors.

Senator Thomas Daschle, Senate minority leader, ranks equal pay for equal work high on his list of priorities. He is currently sponsoring a bill to expand the Fair Pay Act. Among its provisions the bill calls for greater funding of the EEOC so that the agency may better monitor employers and their wage practices. It also requires certain disclosure information that is not mandatory under existing law. Companies that adhere to the new guidelines will be rewarded in tax benefits. Urge your state to sign on as a sponsor of the bill. Ask your co-workers, friends, and family to follow your example. Every individual can make a difference--a $65 million difference, in fact.