Alpana Singh was the youngest female to pass the final level of the Master Sommelier exam, she had an award-winning PBS show, she was selling thousands of dollars of wine every night for her employer – and she was still too afraid to ask for a raise.
“I knew I was getting underpaid, but I didn’t want to create a ruckus,” Singh told the crowd at the Equal Pay Day program held at Chicago’s Daley Plaza on April 10. “Women can do everything right and still not get paid fairly.”
Singh did finally get a raise – five years later – and in the meantime, she says she made the costly mistakes that too many women do: She assumed that if she worked hard, her bosses would pay her what she was worth, and she hesitated in asking male counterparts what they were making.
“We don’t like talking about money, and that needs to change,” she said. “When women win, we all win.”
Singh was the keynote speaker at the 8th Annual Equal Pay Day Chicago event that also featured fiery speeches from Dorri McWhorter, CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, and Sharmili Majmudar, director of Strategic Partnerships for Women Employed.
Equal Pay Day is held every April to reflect how far into the year the average American woman has to work to earn as much as a man did by Dec. 31 of the previous year. The symbolic day is different for women of color, coming in August for African American women and in November for Latinas.
McWhorter predicted that we’d be sending people to Mars before we close the wage gap here on Earth, and Majmudar noted that the wage gap starts early, with boys getting 15 percent more allowance for the same chores as their female siblings.
“It’s not a myth, it’s math,” Majmudar said of the wage gap.
She and others encouraged people to contact legislators to support HB4163, a measure that would prohibit employers from seeking information about a job candidate’s salary history. The bill has passed the Illinois House and is in the Senate.