MTSU debate team, American Association of University Women Murfreesboro participate in gender wage gap debate

Photo and story by Sabrina Tyson / Contributing Writer

On Thursday evening, Middle Tennessee State University and the American Association of University Women’s Murfreesboro division hosted an equal pay debate. MTSU’s debate team participated in the event at the Miller Education Center and debated various solutions to the gender wage gap.

The debate was organized by the AAUW Murfreesboro division to help raise awareness of the issue. Murfreesboro is one of seven active AAUW divisions in Tennessee and one of over 1,000 nationwide. Members of AAUW attempt to “level the playing field” for women in the modern American workplace through advocacy and education events.

“We advance equity for women and girls in order (to) remove barriers for them to work and learn,” said Dia Cirillo, the president of AAUW Murfreesboro.

The Murfreesboro AAUW has also held events such as Equal Pay Day, which took place on April 4, to raise awareness of the wage gap issue.

A group of six MTSU students debated on the the importance of either legislation or social change in closing the wage gap for women.

“The whole idea of (the debate) is social change or legislation that drives the other,” said Imaan Malik, a member of the debate team and an MTSU sophomore. “I thought that was really interesting and that both sides made really good points. It’s really a symbiotic relationship at the end of the day, and we really need both in order to have actual change.”

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, the gender wage gap has decreased since 1980 but is still around. The report states that women earned 83 percent of what men earned in 2015. This means that women, on average, would have had to work 44 more days than their male counterparts to gain the same salary in 2015.

The arguments in the debate centered around the idea that legislation fuels social change or vice versa. The team members used examples such as Brown v. Board of Education, the case that ended segregation in schools, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that allowed for same-sex marriage. The debate team argued that these examples either proved legislation can promote social change or that social change must occur before legislation can be effective.

“I think (the debate) is an excellent way for us to talk about an issue that is a very real issue for women in the workforce, and to shed light on both the proponent and opponent positions in the argument,” Cirillo said.

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