Unfinished Business

It’s 2017 and Equal Pay Still Isn’t a Thing for American Women

A few weeks ago, Melbourne, Australia publicized its recent update to their traffic signal system.  In a progressive attempt at “furthering equality,” the city added crosswalk lights depicting female symbols instead of the commonplace male figure. In response to an article on the issue, a woman commented, “Can’t you just pay us the same as men?” Though the response was chuckle-worthy, it’s unfortunately true that such an issue remains relevant over half a century after passage of the Equal Pay Act.

Though this year’s Equal Pay Day arrives eight whole days earlier than last year’s, equality in the workplace still has quite a way to go. While on average it takes a woman a third of a calendar year to reach the salary a man made the previous year, women of color face an even more devastating wage gap.

According to recent numbers, while women overall are paid 80 cents on the dollar, Black women earn 63 cents and Latinas earn 54 cents. Consequently, Black women must work nearly nine months into the next year for the equivalent of a White man’s salary from the previous year, and Latinas spend almost an entire extra year playing the same game of catch-up.

The sheer fact that on average women employed full time in the United States lose a combined total of more than $840 billion every single year should be shocking enough. It’s apparently not.

One way lawmakers are trying to help narrow the gender wage gap is through the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Unfortunately, even though it was introduced in 1997 and reintroduced every year since, the Paycheck Fairness Act – which was reintroduced today by Sen. Patty Murray, D. Wash., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D. Conn. – remains languishing in Congress. Measures to raise the federal minimum wage and to eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped working people could also help narrow the wage gap, but those efforts have stalled as well.

This Equal Pay Day, learn more from the National Women’s Law Center here, the National Partnership for Women & Families here, AAUW here, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research here.


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