Equal Pay Day April 9 has Women Seeing Red

By Leigh Elmore, resident editor for ABWA’s Women in Business Magazine

The date, April 9, indicates how far into the current year women must work to match the earnings of their male counterparts.

When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President Kennedy 50 years ago, in 1963, women were earning an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. While women hold nearly half of today's jobs, and their earnings account for a significant portion of the household income that sustains the financial well-being of their families, they are still experiencing a gap in pay compared to men's wages for similar work. Today, women earn about 80 cents on the dollar compared to men — a gap that results in the loss of about $380,000 over a woman's career. For African-American women and Latinas, the pay gap is even greater.

Each year, National Equal Pay Day reflects how far into the current year women must work to match what men earned in the previous year. This year that day falls on Tuesday, April 9. On National Equal Pay Day, we rededicate ourselves to carrying forward the fight for true economic equality for all.

“The pay gap is real.  Equal Pay Day is an unfortunate reminder of how far we have to go to reach true pay equality. The wage gap hasn't moved significantly in nearly a decade, and at this rate, we'll be marking Equal Pay Day for the next 60 years," said Linda D. Hallman, executive director of the American Association of University Women, which has published a state-by-state study of income disparity in the United States, titled The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.

"ABWA is joining forces with the AAUW, the National Committee on Pay Equity and other women’s advocacy organizations in recognizing Tuesday, April 9, as Equal Pay Day to draw attention to women’s ongoing battle to receive the same level of compensation as men doing the same job,” says René Street, ABWA Executive Director. “We encourage all women to wear red on Tuesday as a symbol of how far women and minorities are ‘in the red’ with their pay.”

Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages.

The wage gap costs working women and their families tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages and directly affects women's retirement security. These numbers are worse for women of color, and The Simple Truth examines racial and ethnic breakdowns. White and Asian women earn, respectively, 82 percent and 88 percent of white men's earnings. African American and Hispanic women earn much less - just 70 percent and 61 percent of what white men earn, on average, according to the report.

The current pay gap of 23 percent represents a narrowing since the 1970s, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. Progress has stalled in recent years, and the pay gap does not appear likely to go away on its own, reports Christianne Corbett, a senior researcher for The Simple Truth.

Corbett noted that while a pay gap exists in nearly every occupational field, jobs traditionally associated with men tend to pay better than traditionally female jobs for the same level of skill required. And even today, women and men still tend to work in different kinds of jobs. This segregation of occupations is a major factor behind the pay gap.

While women can seek redress through the courts, Corbett said the preferred way to reach pay equality is for employers to step up and do the right thing. She said that transparency in pay scales is much more evident in the public sector than in private business. “There’s still a lot of secrecy about people’s pay rates by private employers.”

She encourages more transparency in the process for all employers, noting that the state of Minnesota requires public-sector employers to conduct a pay equity study every few years and eliminate pay disparities between female-dominated and male-dominated jobs that require comparable levels of expertise. “This allows employers to identify jobs—for example, delivery van drivers and clerk typists—that, despite being different, require similar levels of knowledge and responsibility,” Corbett says.  “We’d much prefer to see employers taking this type of rational approach rather than having to defend themselves in employee-initiated lawsuits.”

So wear your red on Tuesday, April 9, and let your employer and co-workers know what’s on your mind.  For more details about Equal Pay Day and the entire issue of pay inequality, explore the following Web sites:

http://www.pay-equity.org/day.html

Review the entire study results for the The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap Study at:  http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/03/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap-2013.pdf
Review state to state rankings for pay at:  http://www.aauw.org/resource/state-by-state-pay-gap-data-table/