UCF students advocate for equal pay

Photo by John Shipley. The organizers of the Equal Pay Day event strike a Rosie the Riveter pose. They are standing in front of a board that allows students to say why they deserve equal pay.

Equal Pay Day was first observed in 1996, and on Tuesday, it was celebrated at UCF.

The UCF Office of Diversity and Inclusion had a display set up in the Student Union advocating for equal pay for working men and women in America. Groups, such as the College Democrats, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and other organizations were set up to spread information on campus.

The display provided by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the Student Union atrium was open to students from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The office offered statistics and history regarding the wage gap.

They also set up two white boards in the atrium, so that students passing through could express why they think they deserved equal pay.

By the end of the day, each board was filled with messages and answers that ranged from “Because we are all equal” to “Because I did not put myself through school so that I could get paid less.” Students left messages and offered their support throughout the day.

Equal Pay Day was started by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996, according to the NCPE, and Victoria Weston, the information specialist with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said Tuesday marked a notable moment for UCF.

“To my knowledge, this is one of the first instances of Equal Pay Day being an event on UCF’s campus,” Weston said.

Weston said she believes that this was long overdue at the UCF level because of how much the equal pay issue affects UCF and its students.

“Equal Pay Day affects UCF as well,” Weston said. “Even faculty and student positions have discrepancies in equal pay right here at UCF. At every level, it is a problem. Additionally, there are fewer women in the higher positions the higher you go up in the academic affairs and administrative positions.”

Weston believes that one possible solution for students moving forward would be to make an effort to be transparent when discussing the wage scale.

“The biggest thing is to have the awareness and the confidence to talk about your paycheck and what you are supposed to be making because a lot of people feel embarrassed to talk about what they make,” Weston said. “But, you need to talk about your pay with your co-workers at any level, if you are a student employee, if you have an internship, if you are starting a career because silence on this perpetuates the problem.”

One student involved in the day’s events and planning is Rayanna Riecss, a junior English literature major. Riecss said she thinks that students need to take a particular interest in this day due to the impending job search that many will soon endure.

“Obviously at UCF, many of us are getting ready to go into a career, but unfortunately in this country, there is a wage gap,” Riecss, 21, said. “We want to raise awareness about this. We want to continue to help inform students, so we are definitely open to doing more events like this in the future.”

One of the students who feel like they left Equal Pay Day with a new perspective is Roy Caoatayed, a senior physics major.

“I kind of already had a little bit of a background of the issue of working towards equal pay, but this helped me realize just how badly the issue of the lack of equal pay is,” Caoatayed, 22, said. “Too many times today, you do not get paid equally for equal skill level.”

He continued.

“When I had worked in Miami, there was somebody more qualified that had the same job and position as me but they got paid less,” Caoatayed said. “When you look at the gap in experience and work put in, you would think that she would have been paid more, but this was not the case. I didn’t know about this until she told me at a later time, but it was unfair then and it is unfair now.”