Equal Pay Day Draws Attention to Gender Wage Gap
April 9 is Equal Pay Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the pay disparity between men and women and the need to close the gap.
In the U.S. today, the average woman makes .77 for every dollar a man earns—a rate that hasn’t changed much since the 1980s. This wage gap has been closing at a rate of less than half a cent per year since passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. At that rate, it is estimated that women will not be paid equally to men for more than 40 years.
African American women and Latinas fare worse, being paid 64 cents and just 55 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. (Individual earnings data for Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are available, yet they are from a very small sample and thus are not as reliable. The National Committee on Pay Equity encourages advocates interested in additional data on Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans to notify their Congressional representatives and encourage support for research in this area.) But among Native American women, gender discrimination is evident alone by the number of Native women ages 25 to 54 (371,085) employed compared to Native men of the same age range (390,723) in 2011. "Keeping full earnings from these women only augments the poverty rates in Native American communities," reported AmericanProgress.org.
"Fifty years ago this year, the Equal Pay Act became law. Yet a punishing wage gap persists for women across the country," said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "We must do more to close the wage gap, which is present in every part of the country and every industry, and affects workers with every level of education. Congress and the president can and must do more. We are urging Congress to prioritize passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act and urging President Obama to take executive action to ensure that federal contractors do not discriminate in pay. It is past time the country finally make gender-based pay discrimination a thing of the past."
The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, help to break harmful patterns of wage discrimination, and establish stronger workplace protections for women; it was reintroduced in Congress in January. President Obama has been a vocal supporter of the bill, calling on Congress to pass it in his State of the Union address in February. Since then, the National Partnership and other advocates have urged the president to issue an executive order on fair pay, which would set an example for the nation’s employers and help ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to support discriminatory pay practices.