Personal Finance

Sarah Silverman's gender pay gap solution? Crowdfunding

In a satirical PSA released Wednesday, comedian Sarah Silverman is sitting at a doctor's office, waiting for her gender-reassignment surgery. She says this "extreme solution" is far cheaper than the money she'll lose out on due to the gender pay gap.

For other ladies who prefer to remain that way, Silverman has another suggestion: support her $30 trillion crowdfunding campaign, "The Equal Payback Project."

A scene from comedian Sarah Silverman's PSA to close the women's wage gap.
Source: Sarah Silverman | YouTube

Why $30 trillion?

In 2013, women earned 78.3 cents for every dollar men earned, according to a recent Census Bureau report. That's 1.8 cents higher than what women earned in 2012, but the gap has remained relatively steady for more than a decade. Aggregate this pay gap over the course of a woman's 40-year career, Silverman says, and you find that the average woman loses about $435,000. Multiply that by the nearly 69 million working women and you get nearly $30 trillion.

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If the campaign, which launched Wednesday in partnership with advertising firm Droga5, reaches the goal by the end of October—which, clearly, is unlikely—she says the sum will be divvied up equally to every American woman. If not, all donations will benefit the National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for equal pay legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was blocked by Senate Republicans twice this year.

The act would have made it illegal for companies to punish employees who raise concerns about wage discrimination and would require firms to prove that wage gaps are related to professional credentials and not discriminatory factors.

Women’s issues beyond the pay gap

The pay gap is just one statistic, however, and analyzes data from the entire workforce rather than looking at gender pay disparities by industry, said Jeff Hayes, a researcher who specializes in gender pay gaps at the Institute for Women's Policy Research. He points to occupational segregation, which measures to what degree men and women are working in different occupations, as another statistic that should be examined.

Engineering and other occupations dominated by men tend to pay well, for example, while female-dominant occupations like social work and education tend to have lower average earnings, which can be a factor in the persistence of the wage gap.

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This isn't Silverman's first provocative PSA. In January, she partnered with to create a video in which Jesus Christ told her "fertilized eggs aren't people, people are people," and in 2008, she was featured in "The Great Schlep," which urged Jews to convince their grandparents in Florida to vote for Barack Obama.

"Sarah Silverman Closes The Gap" can be found on YouTube.