Equal Pay Day is April 4
Tuesday, April 4th is Equal Pay Day, a national day of education and action to combat the gender pay gap. It is the symbolic day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year. This means women on average have to work until April 4 just to take home what a man did in 2016.
Equal Pay Day symbolizes the wage gap for all women taken together, but it does not tell the whole story. And that 20 percent gap gets even larger for women of color and moms.
Compared with salary information for white male workers, Asian American women’s salaries show the smallest gender pay gap, at 85 percent of white men’s earnings. The gap was largest for Hispanic and Latina women, who were paid only 54 percent of what white men were paid in 2015.
All women pay just as much as men for everything they buy, but only have – at best – 80 cents on the dollar in purchasing power.
And it is not just the pay gap that puts women behind. Gender discrimination affects so much more than just a paycheck. In order to have true economic equality, we have to address many other issues: workplace fairness, paid family and medical leave, affordable, high-quality early learning and childcare opportunities, earned sick days and raising the minimum wage.
The pay gap is compounded by age. Earnings for both female and male full-time workers tend to increase with age, though earnings increase more slowly after age 45 and even decrease after age 55. The gender pay gap also grows with age, and differences among older workers are considerably larger than gaps among younger workers. Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit 35. After that median earnings for women are typically 74–82 percent of what men are paid.
And even more education won’t erase the pay gap. At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education. Women earn less 10 years after enrolling in college than men do six years after enrolling. A college education that cost them just as much to get as their male counterparts.
According to AAUW research, the pay gap won't close until 2152 nationally. Here in New York State, we have it better – by a little. New York will close the wage gap if it continues on its current course in – 2049.
It is time to pay more than lip service to Equal Pay. We need real solutions to all of the economic barriers that prevent women from achieving equality. Immediate legislative and executive action is needed to enable women to bring home the pay they have rightfully earned.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is in dire need of an update in order to reflect America’s modern economy. We need Congress to act. Passing a new federal law, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, would help protect everyone in all states from unfair pay discrimination.
In addition, we need state action to move forward on equal pay. When an employer bases wages on a job applicant’s past salary, pay discrimination from prior employment continues and multiplies throughout her career. This common practice negatively affects women and people of color who face continuing bias in the job and negotiation process.
In particular, low wage workers suffer because “women’s work” is undervalued, making pay based on prior salary depressed. And because women typically have larger caregiving responsibilities, many reduce hours or leave jobs and are penalized upon returning. And, when salary is used to screen applicants for job advancement, it can act as a disqualifier because of assumptions that low wages means unqualified.
Over time, lower salaries add up and affect the worker and her family’s financial health and her retirement security. New wages should reflect the match between the candidate’s qualifications and the job’s requirements and pay scale, not past salary.