As we approach another Equal Pay Day on April 4th, it is timely to review the gap in women’s wages and the cost of simply being a woman.
Equal Pay Day is the date in the current year that represents the extra days a typical woman working full-time would have to work just to make the same as a typical man did in the previous year ending December 31st
Nationally, women earn 80 cents on a dollar that men earn.
While the wage gap continually narrowed starting in 1970s due to women’s increased participation in the work force and men’s slowing wages, the U.S. Census Bureau notes that it will be 2152 before women will finally obtain equity, assuming the slowing rate of parity since 2007 continues. 2152!
So is there really a wage gap?
And is it the fault of women’s choices? From elementary and middle school teachers to computer programmers, women are paid less than men in female-dominated, gender-balanced, and male-dominated occupations. Consider the U.S. women’s national soccer team…despite the team’s generating more than $20 million more revenue than the men’s team, the women’s team was paid one-quarter – one-quarter! – of what the men earned in 2015. The women’s soccer team filed a wage-discrimination lawsuit with the EEOC last April. How does this make any sense, other than pure sex discrimination?
Women deal with sex discrimination every day of their lives. In a study, From Cradle to Cane, The Cost of Being a Female Consumer, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs identified nearly 800 instances of product-marketing discrimination. From women paying more for laundering a plain white blouse than men do for a plain white shirt, to a little boy’s scooter costing $25 versus the same scooter for a little girl costing $50, the only difference being that the girl’s was pink in color. Ever compare disposal razors at Walgreens? Why are the women’s more expensive? And the haircut at a salon that requires the same amount of time, but costs women 25% more than men’s styling. And the beat goes on…
So what can we do to stop this discrimination and close the wage gap?
The first step was by President Obama’s signing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, correcting that unfair pay complaints can be filed within 180 days of each discriminatory paycheck. Prior to this Act, claims had to be filed within 180 days of the first paycheck issued – even if the employee was unaware of the pay discrimination at the time or for years thereafter.
Often, employers prohibit their employees from discussing pay. In a firm I worked, discussion of one’s salary with another employee could be grounds for termination. How do you know you are being paid unfairly if you don’t know what your peers are making? The Paycheck Fairness Act, prohibiting employers to retaliate against employees who discuss their compensation, has been filed in Congress. This bill also would “require the Department of Labor to collect wage data from employers, broken down by race and gender and require employers to show that wage differentials between men and women in the same jobs are for a reason other than sex.”
And, of course, the ultimate solution is for Florida (and the United States) to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA would require “sex” to be scrutinized on the same Constitutional level as race and religion. As long as women are not included in the Constitution, we will continue to be treated like second-class citizens.
So, on April 4th, I will not be celebrating Equal Pay Day, though I may join my sisters in an “unhappy” hour drink!