Pay Equity in Early Childhood Ed
Here’s an email that we received from our CEO, Kai-leé Berke today. We’re sharing with you in the hopes that you’ll join the conversation.
From: Kai-lee Berke
Date: Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 6:59 AM
In 1963, well before nearly everyone at Teaching Strategies was even born, our government passed a law declaring equal pay for equal work.
Today, Equal Pay Day, is the day that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. On average, women make 21% less than what men earn for doing the same job (and the statistics get worse for many women of color). While I’m proud of our pay equity at Teaching Strategies, as a country we still have so much further to go.
And we know that gender bias stretches well beyond equal pay for equal work in the employment world. We serve the early childhood education field—one that is primarily comprised of women and is the lowest paid sector of the education marketplace. Ask anyone who works here who was a former early childhood teacher and they will tell you that to be an exceptional teacher of young children is leaps and bounds harder than anything any of us do during our work days, including me. Period. The end.
So why is it that as a country we pay so little to our early childhood teachers and caregivers? Historically, it has been because it is considered “women’s work.” The work of mothering. The work of caregiving. A domestic task. Work that has been historically under-valued in our society. And because that is the case, it draws many people to the profession who feel under-valued themselves. Women who have grown up with that domestic task—taking care of younger brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbor’s children. Women who feel uncomfortable with formal schooling or those who have been disenfranchised by our school systems, made to feel that advanced education was not meant for them.
As a Native Hawaiian-Korean woman, mother, former early childhood educator and as the CEO of an early childhood company that serves a majority female customer base, I say that this cannot be allowed to stand. I am so proud of the work Teaching Strategies and our partners have done in this industry to raise the bar for and to raise the visibility of this profession! Everything we create for early childhood educators—from the content of our resources to the imagery on our website—is intended to communicate respect, admiration, professional trust and academic integrity to a field of folks who are often under-paid and disrespected. We have built professional development that is designed to engage our teachers as adult learners with diverse backgrounds and educational experiences in order to scaffold their professional education and inspire them to be the life-long learners that we know they are. We create tools and resources that allow them to implement—with a high degree of integrity and fidelity—the complex task of teaching and caring for young children in high quality early childhood settings. And at every turn, we advocate for these educators and caregivers at the federal and state level in our public policy work.
But more than that, the thing that I am most proud of that we do here at Teaching Strategies, is the respect, humility and admiration that I hear in all of your voices when you are talking with our partners in the field. I have been spending a lot of time in the field lately, and I promise you that the way you communicate with our customers matters tremendously and makes them feel valued in ways that perhaps their pay does not. Thank you for that. Thank you so much.
There is still so much work to be done. Trying to explain Equal Pay Day last night at the dinner table to my son and daughter provided me with even more resolve for the work to be done on behalf of both the educators we are privileged to serve and for equity in our greater society. So thank you, in advance, to all of you—women and men who are our much needed allies in this work. #EqualPayDay.
My warmest aloha,