Today we recognize Equal Pay Day – a day that reminds us the harsh reality that even after years of trying, women are not paid equal to men. According to U.S. Census Bureau, women in 2011 made 77 cents to a man’s one dollar, creating a wage gap of 23%. It’s even worse for women of color: 64 cents for Black women and 55 for Hispanic women for every dollar paid to non-white Hispanic men. Furthermore, according to the HuffPost, that means women are working 59 days FREE. Most importantly, there are several pieces of legislation circulating that could close the wage gap for good.
We live in a country where women make up four out of every ten breadwinners, where women will account for 52% of the projected increase in the labor force from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The gender wage gap is by no means old news in the Oval Office: In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, a bill that has barely closed the gap by only a half a cent per year.
The Paycheck Fairness Act seeks to update the Equal Pay Act, but has had little luck in Congress. According to U.S. News, the act would “prohibit employers from paying a man more than a woman for the same job and stop employers from punishing women who call them out for pay disparities”. Critics argue that if the bill sponsored by Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski passes, an uproar of companies would file lawsuits. And we must be weary – if the Equal Pay Act barely made a dent in equalizing women’s and men’s earnings, we can’t be sure any bill would solve our problems. Still, it could create awareness and hold company’s more accountable for work place equality.
Another piece of legislation introduced in Congress last month is the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. The Christian Science Monitor argues it’s passage would not only stimulate the economy but also close the gender gap. Proposing to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, the article suggests that this could increase an individual’s gross earnings by $5,700, meaning that a family of three can live above the poverty line. Proponents are hopeful after the city of San Jose, California just increased their minimum wage from $8 to $10 and the city has already seen boosting business and less turnover after only a month in implementation.
All the hype about Equal Pay Day isn’t positive. The United States actually has a strong rate of high-achieving women carrying executive positions compared to other countries, according to this NYT article. And still, critics don’t even believe in the presence of a glass ceiling by arguing women don’t seek the proper education or career paths to achieve higher work positions.
We are hopeful for the aforementioned bills pushing to close the wage gap, especially after the success of Nancy Pelosi’s passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act under President Obama’s early presidency. The law allows women to seek compensation for wage discrimination. Christine Pelosi of the HuffPost argues that the Paycheck Fairness Act is the next step, urging that “we must close a loophole in affirmative defenses for employers, allow for reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas…” among other things. Today, the POTUS tweeted about Equal Pay Day (right), and he could easily be the key to passing many of these gender-gap-closing-bills.
hashtag #equalpayday for tweets, articles, and interesting facts about this national recognition