While Mary Tyler Moore’s passing is a sad one, she has a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.
Her sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, warmed the hearts of audiences in the 1970’s with goofy antics and fun dialogue.
Underneath the charm, however, Tyler Moore was quietly fighting for the rights of women.
Depicted as a single woman working at a news station, Tyler Moore’s character struggled in the male dominated industry, touching on many topics that plagued women in the day.
One such issue was the wage gap.
In the show, Tyler Moore struggled with the fact that her character was getting paid less than her male coworkers, while undoubtedly acting as the star staff worker.
Darren Chapman, a professor of Economics at Fanshawe College, says that struggle mirrored real societal issues at the time.
“Women working in the workforce were seen as a supplemental income,” says Chapman. “It was primarily the wager earner was the male, so it could afford to be a lower amount, so you basically got two working people, but a wage and a half.”
But while many industries continued to belittle women’s role in the workplace, Tyler Moore used her show as a medium of change.
“For Mary Tyler Moore, what she brought to the forefront with her show was the fact that for those women who were working and it wasn’t supplementary, it was their own wage,” Chapman says. “Why should they be working at a 30-40 percent discount to their male counterparts doing the same job?”
Look forward 40 years, and the wage gap is still a topic of discussion.
Chapman explains that although advancements have been made through regulations and anti-discriminatory laws, there is still a discrepancy.
The culprit? An unbalanced frequency of paternal to maternal leaves.
While women take time to start a family, their male counterparts more often than not remain in the industry, collecting wage increases in the interim.
When women return, they enter at the same pay level as when they left, resulting in a gap.
“As women enter and exit the workplace, even though you’ve got laws and regulations to make sure they’re not penalized, we can’t also force employers to pay the wage increases for the work that they don’t have experience on,” says Chapman.
The remedy, according to Chapman, is a simple one.
Balancing out the time taken by both men and women to raise a family would, in theory, bring closer the ends of the wage spectrum.
This progress, however, is due to the pioneers who combated sexism and discrimination in the workplace, and those like Mary Tyler Moore have shaped how modern society views women.