While some progress has been made in recent years, women still earn less than men for similar work.
On average, women who work full-time earn 84 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the American Association of University Women. In other words, women must work through today, March 14, to earn what men earned in 2022, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, which bases its findings on the latest U.S. Census figures.
Another way to look at it: Women have worked for free so far this year, at least when compared to men. It’s as if their labor doesn’t count. Literally.
“Many women must work far longer into the year to catch up to men,” the committee notes on its website.
The situation is worse for women of color and moms.
Indeed, Some women must work until the last month of the year simply to catch up with non-Hispanic white men’s earnings the previous year, according to AAUW’s Equal Pay Calendar.
- Black women who work full-time year-round earn 67 cents on the white man’s dollar, according to AAUW, a pay disparity marked on July 27.
- Mothers, including part-time and seasonal workers, earn 62 cents compared to fathers, a pay disparity marked on August 15.
- Latinas who work full-time year-round earn 57 cents on the collar, a pay disparity marked on October 5.
- Native American women, including part-time and seasonal workers, earn 51 cents to the white man’s dollar, a day marked on Nov. 30.
The gap translates into thousands and thousands of dollars that women don’t have but desperately need to cover the increasing costs of basic life necessities like housing, food, child care, electricity, gas, medicine, education, transportation, and more.
Several factors contribute to the gender pay gap, including:
- Occupational segregation: Women are overrepresented in lower-paying occupations and industries such as education, healthcare, and social assistance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Gender discrimination: Despite legal protections against gender discrimination, women still face bias and unequal treatment in the workplace, such as being passed over for promotions or being paid less for the same work as their male colleagues. This is due to systemic sexism and implicit cultural bias against women and caregivers in the workplace, particularly those of color.
- Negotiation training: Studies show that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries and benefits than men, which can lead to lower starting salaries and fewer opportunities for advancement. The reluctance to negotiate stems from societal norms of being passive, helpful, and accommodating, as well as cultural penalties for being assertive or confident.
- Family responsibilities: Women are more likely to take on caregiving responsibilities for children or elderly relatives, which can limit their ability to work full-time or pursue higher-paying jobs.
A Multifaceted Solution
Addressing these barriers requires a multifaceted approach that includes policies such as equal pay laws, stronger anti-discrimination measures, and efforts to promote equal access to education and training opportunities for women. Additionally, promoting workplace flexibility and paid family leave policies can help support working parents, regardless of gender.
Fortunately, some bills have been introduced in the past to address equal pay for women:
- The Paycheck Fairness Act: This is a federal bill that was first introduced in 1997 and has been reintroduced several times since then. The bill would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by providing more effective remedies for victims of gender-based pay discrimination, increasing penalties for employers who violate the law, and improving the collection of pay data to identify and address pay disparities.
- The Fair Pay Act: This is another federal bill that has been introduced in multiple sessions of Congress. The bill would require employers to provide equal pay for work that is of equal value, regardless of gender, race, or national origin.
- State-level bills: Several states have introduced and passed their own equal pay bills, such as the California Fair Pay Act, the New York Equal Pay Act, and the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act. These bills typically require employers to provide equal pay for work that is substantially similar, rather than identical, and prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or inquire about their pay.
Policymakers continue to introduce legislation, often on Equal Pay Day, to call for equal pay for equal work. It’s an easy choice, and an overdue one.