Today we commemorate “African American Women’s Equal Pay Day,” the day in the year when African American women’s wages finally catch up to what men earned last year. It is important to note that African American Women’s Equal Pay Day comes nearly four months after “Women’s Equal Pay Day,”which included wages of women of all races, and was marked on April 12th of this year. The four-month lag signifies the nearly 20-cent wider wage gap African American women face when compared to women of all races. So, while the average wage gap for all women in the United States is 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, African American women’s wages are at just 60.5 cents on the dollar. African American lesbian couples, who doubly experience the high wage gap (plus discrimination based on sexual orientation), have triple the poverty rate of white lesbian couples.
Last year, California passed one of the strongest equal pay laws in the country, the California Fair Pay Act of 2015, which strengthened protection for workers who discuss or ask about their wages and the wages of others. It also protects women who challenge gender based pay differences in jobs that are “substantially similar” to theirs. For example, a female housekeeper who is being paid less than a male janitor could remedy the pay difference since the jobs are so similar and wage inequality would likely be unjustified. The California Labor Commissioner is charged with enforcing the California Fair Pay Act.
This year, California State Senator Hall has introduced SB 1063, the Wage Equality Act of 2016, which would add race and ethnicity to California’s strong Fair Pay Act. Under SB 1063, California employers would be prohibited from paying workers less for substantially similar work based on race or ethnicity. An African American woman thus might have a claim that she is being paid less based not only on sex, but on race as well. With SB 1063, she would be able to more effectively address racial wage inequality.
Our current laws against sex and race discrimination have proven inadequate to end race- and sex-based unequal pay since the pay gap remains depressingly large more than fifty years after passage of federal civil rights laws in these areas. Pay disclosure rules are an important step towards closing the pay gap for women and women of color in particular. They force employers to self-audit and identify unjustified pay disparities. In the event they do not correct the disparities, disclosure enable government agencies to conduct targeted enforcement of equal pay laws.
It will reportedly be more than a decade before the first African American woman (Harriet Tubman) graces the face of U.S. currency. With these new laws there is hope that before the Tubmans arrive, African American women will already be receiving the full value of those $20 bills and not just 60 percent.
The U.S. women’s soccer team is already on a roll at the Olympics in Rio.
So far, they haven’t lost a single game they’ve played, winning against New Zealand and France and tying with Colombia. They didn’t even give up a goal during the first two games and are now first in their group. They’re well on their way toward gold.
Yet the victorious streak comes amid their continuing fight to be paid equally with the U.S. men’s team, which didn’t even qualify to participate in this year’s summer Olympics.
In March, five stars on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT)?—?Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo?—?filed a complaint on behalf of everyone on the women’s team with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They alleged that the U.S. Soccer Federation unfairly pays female players less than those on the men’s team.
In their complaint, the players claimed that they are paid almost four times less than the men’s team players. For example, the women say they are paidjust $1,350 each for winning a friendly match and nothing for a tie or loss, compared to $9,375 for a men’s victory (even more if they win against a top-ranked team), $6,250 for a tie, and $5,000 for a loss.
The women’s team has a contract specifying that top-tier players get $72,000 a year as a base salary, while the men aren’t guaranteed payment. But the complaint pointed out that if the USWNT were to lose all 20 friendlies in a season, a player would get $72,000, while if it won all 20 she would get $99,000. The men, on the other hand, get $100,000 a year for losing all 20 friendlies, $1,000 more than a victorious female player. Meanwhile, they get about $263,000 each for winning all 20 matches–38 percent more than a winning women’s player.
The women’s team also gets nothing for playing in World Cup matches until they get into fourth place, even though the men’s team gets payment for each game played regardless of the result. They got just $2 million for winning the World Cup last year, while the U.S. men’s team earned $8 million for losing in the first round. Meanwhile, the German team that won the men’s World Cup got $35 million.
The women have argued that their pay is unfair in part because the men are compensated more for just showing up, while the women have to perform at world champion levels to get comparable pay.
The current team has been ranked number one in the world for 12 of the last 13 years, won three World Cups, and got the gold at four of the five Olympics that included women’s soccer?—?so they’re getting unequal pay for unequal work. Another gold medal would only add to their pile of accomplishments.
But the U.S. Soccer Federation, the target of the USWNT lawsuit, has fired back.
In June, it filed a response with the EEOC in which it called accusations of discrimination “unwarranted, unfounded, and untrue.” It also claims that the women’s team players are actually paid more than the men. The team’s compensation “is comparable to (and in many cases better than) the compensation U.S. Soccer provides to the MNT,” it says in the filing.
Without going into a detailed breakdown of pay, the Federation notes that among all USWNT players who got any pay between 2012 and 2015, their average compensation was $279,743?—?about $90,000 more than average compensation for a men’s team player over the same time period.
The Federation also argues that the five players who brought the complaint were paid more than the top five highest-paid members of the USMNT when World Cup money is taken out of the picture. Yet when that income is included, the five female players earned 3.8 percent less than the men?—?despite winning the cup. Meanwhile, the Federation’s response also admits that the 14 women who are among the 25 highest-earning U.S. soccer players earned 2.2 percent less, on average, than the men in the same group.
The biggest inequalities show up at the bottom, not at the top, of the pay scales. According to data obtained by the New York Times dating back to 2008, the 25th highest-paid female player made about $341,000, compared to $580,000 for the corresponding male player, and the male player in the 50th slot made 50 times more than the female one.
The Federation argues that if there are any pay differences, they should be chalked up to the fact that the men’s team has historically generated higher ratings and more revenue. The men’s team brought in about $144 million between 2008 and 2015, according to the Federation’s filing, compared to $53 million from the women’s team. Attendance at USMNT games was more than double that of USWNT games between 2001 and 2015.
Meanwhile, although it admits that the women’s World Cup final got “unprecedented” TV ratings last year, it argues that historically men draw twice the viewership.
The fight has garnered attention from the U.S. Senate, where Patty Murray (D-WA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been looking into why the two teams are paid different amounts. After viewing the data provided in the Federation’s response, the two senators sent it a letter asking for more information about the revenue it gets from TV contracts and the efforts it makes to promote the women’s team. They also pointed out that the Federation’s own data shows that viewership for the Women’s World Cup last year set a record, and not just for the final match.
“We remain focused on the pressing issue of pay equity for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team,” they wrote. “We, along with millions of women’s soccer fans, are looking forward to rooting for the Women’s Team as they compete in the summer Olympic Games in Brazil.”
The differences between revenue and viewership also don’t take into account the systemic and historic disadvantages that women’s soccer has faced. Nor has either side in the dispute brought up other disparities like being made to fly coach while the men fly business class or racking up a third of the men’s teams expenses over a year.
Since filing the complaint, the USWNT has continued to be vocal about their cause. At a match in July, they sported t-shirts that read #EqualPayEqualPlay and took to social media to discuss the pay gap. It remains to be seen if they bring the issue up as they go for gold in Rio.
This article originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on August 10, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and other outlets.
Massachusetts has leapfrogged over all other states to pass the most robust equal pay law in the country.
The law takes a step that is completely unique: it prohibits employers from asking prospective hires about their salary histories until after they make a job offer that includes compensation, unless the applicants voluntarily disclose the information. No other state has such a ban in place.
Many employers require applicants to give them a salary history at the outset or during the initial steps of the hiring process, usually to determine how much they should be paid and whether the employer can afford their salary. But this disadvantages women, who, thanks to a variety of factors that can include outright discrimination, make less than men on average. Women make less than men in their first jobs even when education and field are taken into consideration, and they are also penalized in salary negotiations, while men get an advantage. If the next employer bases a salary on the previous one a woman was earning, that discrimination will only be furthered.
Massachusetts’s new law also mandates that employers pay men and women the same not just when they do the exact same work, but when their work is “comparable.” Most laws only require men and women in the exact same job to be paid equally. The state defines comparable work as being “substantially similar” in skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions — not just based on job titles or descriptions. It does, however, allow for differing pay scales based on seniority — so long as a lack of seniority for a female employee isn’t related to pregnancy or family leave — merit, production, geography, education, experience, or training.
Women’s work has long been undervalued even when it’s substantially similar to what men do.Housekeepers make less than janitors, for instance. And when women move into higher-paying, male-dominated jobs, the pay drops.
There was a movement in the 1970s and 80s among state governments to ensure comparable pay equity in their own workforces. They ended up spending $527 million to adjust women’s pay to make it equal with men who had essentially the same job duties, eliminating about 20 percent of women’s wage gap.
A paper at the time found that a national pay equity law, one that looks like Massachusetts’s, would eliminate more than a quarter of the overall gender wage gap.
The new law also bans salary secrecy, blocking employers from keeping their employees from talking about pay with each other. About half of all employees say they are either prohibited or discouraged from discussing compensation, even though they have a legal right to do so. That makes it incredibly difficult for women or other marginalized groups to discover whether they’re being unfairly paid less than their colleagues.
A handful of other states have passed their own equal pay laws aimed at closing the gender wage gap. California passed one at the end of last year mandating pay equity for comparable work and banning salary secrecy, and New York passed a package of bills that included prohibiting salary secrecy. But none of them have gone as far as Massachusetts in including a ban on employers asking for salary histories.
Massachusetts’s new law unanimously passed the state legislature, and Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has said he will sign it into law.
Meanwhile, progress toward passing national legislation to address the gender wage gap has been blocked in Congress. Republicans have repeatedly blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ban salary secrecy, and the Fair Pay Act, which would mandate equal pay for comparable work, never even gets a vote.
This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on August 1, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and other outlets.
Imagine a workplace where everyone clocked in at 9 a.m. and was paid the same day’s wage for the work they did – but the men could get their pay for the day at 3:20 p.m. and leave, while the women had to stay on the job until 5 p.m. to get the same check the men got an hour and 40 minutes earlier.
That’s another way to think of the gender wage gap – with women earning on average only 79 cents for each dollar a man earns – that Equal Pay Day, April 12, is intended to highlight. The“79 percent clock” is being promoted by the National Partnership for Women and Families and MTV as a way to dramatize that wage inequity. If you are a woman, you can enter the start and end of your workday and the calculator will “show you when 79 percent of your day has passed and you (or your female colleagues) are no longer being paid.”
For an eight-hour workday that starts at 9 a.m., that moment is generally 3:20 p.m. But that’s an average; for women of color, the moment at which a woman is no longer compensated for her day could be as early as 1:24 p.m. for Hispanics or as late as 3:44 p.m. for Asian Americans. For unmarried women, that moment comes at 1:48 p.m. – 60 percent of the day – the same moment as African-American women, according to a report released this week by the Voter Participation Data Center that also includes state-by-state data for unmarried women.
Of course, if we could see men and women leaving workplaces at different hours because they weren’t equally compensated for the work they did, there would be less opportunity for denying that the wage gap is real. But salary information is usually confidential, especially in mid-level jobs and above. Often, women who are being unfairly paid for their work don’t even realize they are being discriminated against.
When discrimination is documented, we get, particularly from conservative and Republican politicians, the usual round of denials and excuses. Comments from the 2016 Republican presidential candidates are typical: “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job,” said Donald Trump in 2015, who has also said that determining whether a man and a woman is doing “the same job” is “a very, very tricky question.” Ted Cruz as a senator voted to block a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and has dismissed equal pay legislation as “just empowering trial lawyers to file lawsuits.” (Yes, that’s what lawyers do when laws are violated and people are harmed as a result, but I digress.) John Kasich suggested in 2015 that gender pay disparities are “all tied up in skills” and experience.
The Center for American Progress has published “The Top 10 Facts About the Gender Wage Gap,” and several of those facts address the myths perpetuated by the Republican presidential candidates. The wage gap is real, it does appear among men and women with the same education and experience doing similar jobs, and, according to the CAP fact sheet, “38 percent of the gap is unexplainable by measurable factors,” such as women being concentrated in certain lower-wage occupations or being more likely to have to take unpaid leave to care for family members.
Having Congress pass the Paycheck Fairness Act would go a long way toward reinforcing the already existing Equal Pay Act and getting at the root of gender pay discrimination. A key requirement in the law would be that employers would have to disclose pay information to the federal government based on race, sex and national origin. That would make it easier for the government and individual employees to hold employers accountable for violations of the equal pay laws that already exist but are regularly evaded.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton highlighted her support of the Paycheck Fairness Act atan event sponsored by Glassdoor.com, where she praised Silicon Valley firms like Salesforce and retailers like Gap for succeeding in closing the gender pay gap in their companies.
Like the “79 percent clock” that rings an alarm when a person has reached 79 percent of their work day, the Paycheck Fairness Act allows for an alarm bell to ring when workers are not receiving equal pay for equal work. It would bring pay inequities into the light of day, instead of the darkness in which Republican presidential candidates would rather have this issue continue to fester.
This blog originally appeared at OurFuture.org on April 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Isaiah J. Poole worked at Campaign for America’s Future. He attended Pennsylvania State University and lives inWashington, DC.
The gender wage gap exists because of policies that fail to benefit American workers, and instead benefit their bosses.
On Wednesday, May 13, 2015, the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. held a panel to explore the necessity of giving women meaningful equality in the workplace. Panelists discussed how structural differences in business regarding small employers and part-time workers keep the gender pay gap strong.
Panelist Caroline Fredrickson, author of “Under the Bus: How Working Women are Being Run Over” emphasized how certain views about how women should advance themselves in the workplace, such as those Silicon Valley executive Sheryl Sandberg wrote in “Lean In,” might work for professionals in full-time jobs, but do not address the majority of America’s working women. “There’s nothing wrong with ‘leaning in,’ but it doesn’t address the problems that many women face in the U.S,” she said.
In 2013, Sandberg rallied professional women across the country to “Lean In” and push for success in their personal and professional lives. Sandberg argued that women should speak up and have meaningful conversations with employers regarding paid leave, affordable child care, and other crucial benefits.
But “leaning in” cannot fix the structural problems that need to be addressed through policy changes. The gender wage gap does not exist because not enough women are “leaning in,” but because of a system that allows part-time workers to be denied benefits and to be discriminated against by small employers, and that does not pay living wages. Part-time workers, members of racial and ethnic minorities, and mothers are among the highest numbers of women being failed by our system.
“Farm-workers, temps, small business workers, part-time workers, etc.” are often left behind by policies that allow businesses to exploit workers with minimal pay and little to no benefits, Fredrickson noted. In her introduction to “Under the Bus,” Fredrickson wrote, “Few of us are aware of how the labor and employment laws leave out so many women.”
Part-time work is a job category dominated by women. In 2014, almost 33 percent of all employed women over the age of 16 in the United States were classified as part-time workers. According to Frederickson, “8 million of these workers are involuntary,” meaning, that no full-time positions are available to them.
Most workers in part-time jobs receive minimal to no benefits. It is also common for businesses to withhold hours from employees to exempt workers from benefit status. Paid sick leave, vacation days, and health insurance are typically unheard of.
The role of motherhood also affects the workplace. According to the Department of Labor, The labor force participation rate for single mothers with children under 18 years of age was 74.2 percent in 2013, and 67.8% for married mothers (spouse present) with children under 18.
Even with high numbers of mothers participating, mothers face some of the biggest hardships in the workforce. At Wednesday’s discussion, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of MomsRising.org noted, “Being a mom is a greater predictor of job discrimination than being a woman.” Becoming a mom and having a baby is also the number one cause of “poverty spells,” where income dips below what is necessary for basic living expenses, she said.
It is impossible for women to “lean in” if policies do not keep businesses from unfair labor practices. The United States needs to implement checks on our employment policies to protect workers and close the wage gap.
During the panel, Brigid Schulte, journalist for The Washington Post, stated, “the more I learn about how our work policies are structured, the more I learn that they don’t work for anyone.”
Affordable childcare is also a huge problem; daycare can cost even more than college. Rowe-Finkbeiner explained the case for affordable childcare, stating, “For every dollar we spend on high quality childcare, we get $8 back – and for high-risk children, we get $20 back.”
Paid leave is also a crucial benefit that many cannot receive. Four in ten private-sector workers and 80 percent of low-wage workers cannot earn a single paid sick day. Paid sick days would ensure that women would not lose pay or their jobs because they or their child fell ill.
Even if more policies are put into place for paid leave, affordable childcare and paid sick days, one underlying force will continue to affect worker prosperity and the wage gap: the need for a living wage.
Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy stressed that “raising pay for all workers” would make a significant difference in the gender wage gap. Women currently make up two-thirds of workers in low-wage jobs. By implementing a living wage, 15 million working women would have a greater ability to support themselves and their families.
There is still a gender wage gap in 2015 because of a lack of policy measures to protect working women. Paid leave, affordable childcare, and paid sick days are all necessary benefits that would help to close the gap. Because women are disproportionately represented in part-time and minimum wage work, a living wage is also a necessity. Until fairer work policies are put into practice, the gender wage gap will remain persistent.
Rowe-Finkbeiner summed up America’s gender gap issue: “We’re living in a ‘Modern Family’ nation with ‘Leave it to Beaver’ policies.”
This blog was originally posted on Our Future on May 14, 2015. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: The author’s name is Emily Foster. Emily Foster is a regular contributor to Our Future.
Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the Maryland Insurance Administration, which regulates the state’s insurance companies, for willfully paying female employees less than men who were doing the same work.
The lawsuit claims that since the end of 2009, the agency has paid Alexandra Cordaro, Mary Jo Rogers, Marlene Green, and a group of other women who worked as investigators or enforcement officers less than men at the agency for “substantially equal work” in similar roles.
The suit says the agency’s actions violate the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits paying men and women differently for equal work unless due to seniority or systems that pay based on the merit, quantity, or quality of work. It seeks to get the agency to end the different pay practices, institute equal employment policies for women, and pay back wages for the three women and other female employees who were potentially discriminated against.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokeswoman with the agency said, “The Maryland Insurance Administration strongly disputes the allegations. The case will be vigorously defended.”
American women still make less than men in virtually every job, on average earning 78 percent of what men earn when they work full time, year round. While many factors go into the wage gap, such as the fact that women often have to take time out of their careers to care for family members and they tend to be clustered in lower-paying jobs, economists who study the gap consistently come up with a portion that can’t be explained by such factors, which could indicate bias or discrimination. Nearly a third of American women say they would be paid more if they were a man.
But it can be very difficult to prove that discrimination is motivating lower pay. One big obstacle is that about half of all employees say they are either banned or discouraged from talking about pay with their coworkers, even though they have a legal right to do so, which means many women may not be able to find out whether they are being paid less than men.
It can also be hard to prove that pay differences are due to bias. Francine Katz, formerly the highest-ranking woman executive at Anheuser-Busch, sued the company for allegedly discriminating against her by paying her less than the man that had her job before her and for paying all women on a lower tier than the male executives paid at the top tier. But she lost her case, and the jury foreman said “the evidence was not enough to single out gender.” The experience is common: employees alleging pay discrimination have only wonabout a third of equal pay claims over the last decade.
Meanwhile, U.S. law may require equal pay for equal work, but it doesn’t require equal pay for similar work in different jobs. Yet in the states that experimented with such requirements and with regular audits of payscales in the 1980s, the wage gap dropped significantly.
This article originally appeared in thinkprogress.org on April 20, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media.
Today, Equal Pay Day, marks the day when women workers close the 2014 pay gap, and that wage gap is huge. Women, on average, earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to men’s wages and that adds up to more than $10,800 a year and more than $400,000 over a career.
A new report finds that wage gap is even wider for mothers, especially single mothers and mothers of color, most of whom are essential breadwinners and caregivers for their families.
The report, An Unlevel Playing Field: America’s Gender-Based Wage Gap, Binds of Discrimination and a Path Forward, by the National Partnership for Women & Families, finds mothers who work full-time, year-round in the United States are paid just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers who work full-time, year-round. Single mothers are paid just 58 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. And African American and Latina mothers suffer the biggest disparities, being paid just 54 cents and 49 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers.
National Partnership President Debra L. Ness said:
“At a time when women’s wages are essential to families and our economy, the persistence of the gender-based wage gap is doing real and lasting damage to women, families, communities and to our nation. It defies common sense that lawmakers are not doing more to stop gender discrimination in wages.”
In 2009, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that denied many pay discrimination victims their day in court. But since then, Republican lawmakers have blocked votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act.
That legislation would strengthen penalties that courts may impose for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers’ wage practices. The bill also would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance—not gender.
The bill was reintroduced last month by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who said:
“Equal pay is not just a problem for women, but for families, who are trying to pay their bills, trying to get ahead, trying to achieve the American Dream and are getting a smaller paycheck than they have earned for their hard work.”
Last April, President Obama signed two executive orders on equal pay, one that banned retaliation against employees of federal contractors for discussing their wages and another that instructed the U.S. Department of Labor to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation. While these actions will help federal contractor employees, congressional action is needed to end gender-based pay discrimination for all workers.
Here are some other facts on unequal pay and the wage gap between men and women.
If the pay trends of the past five decades remain the same, it will take nearly another five decades—until 2058—for women to reach pay equity with men.
If women and men received equal pay, the poverty rate for all working women and their families would be cut in half from 8.1% to 3.9%.
The gender wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among nonunion workers.
Union women working full-time earn, on average, 90.6% of what their male peers earn.
The wage gap for union members fell 2.6 cents between 2012 and 2013 but was virtually unchanged for nonunion workers.
Paying women the same wage as their male peers would have added an additional $448 billion to the economy in 2012 or roughly 3% of the country’s GDP.
62% of women who work in the private sector report that discussing pay at work is strongly discouraged or prohibited, making it harder for women to discover if they are missing out on wages they deserve.
Requiring employers to disclose employee pay rankings would allow women to know if they are being paid the same wage as comparable workers.
This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on April 14, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
Six years ago in January, President Obama signed his first piece of legislation — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – to extend the time period in which an employee could file a claim for pay discrimination. The Act overruled the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, which Ledbetter said allowed her employer to pay her unfairly “long enough to make it legal.”
At the time of its passage, President Obama said that the passage of the Act would “send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone.”
Sadly, in the six years since the passage of the Act, the gender pay gap has – at best – barely budged. Indeed, by some estimates, the wage gap has actually widened in the last few years.
If the new Congress is truly committed to the goal of pay equity, concrete steps must be taken. First, Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will strengthen the Equal Pay Act and help secure equal pay for equal work. Second, Congress must act to increase the minimum wage, as women make up two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage earners. Third, Congress should enact a universal, government-paid preschool program, as 10% of the wage gap is attributable to time that women spend outside of the workforce.
While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a step in the right direction, Congress still has a lot of work to do to close the persisting wage gap. Let’s hope by the Seventh Anniversary of the Act, we are closer to pay equity and an economy that truly works for everyone.
This article originally appeared on celavoice.org on January 29, 2015. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Sharon Vinick is the Managing Partner of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyam LLP, the largest women-owned law firm in the state that specializes in representing plaintiffs in employment cases. In more than two decades of representing employees, Sharon has enjoyed great success, securing numerous six and seven figure settlements and judgments for her clients. Sharon has been named by Northern California Super Lawyers for the past five years. Sharon is a graduate of Harvard Law School and UC Berkeley. In addition to being a talented attorney, Sharon is an darn good cook.
On Monday, Oregon lawmakers considered a pair of bills that could significantly reduce the gap in average earnings between working men and women, which currently means the state’s women make 80 percent of what men do.
House Bill 2006 would make it unlawful for employers to pay workers of different genders who do equivalent work differently. House Bill 2007 would make it illegal to punish workers who ask about or discuss their pay with each other.
The first bill’s language is subtle, but it could have important consequences for women in the state. As written, equivalent jobs wouldn’t rely on having the exact same role at the exact same company. Rather, equivalent jobs would be those that are the same when the required skills, training, education, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are the same. For example, women who coach girls’ teams couldn’t be paid less than men who coach boys just because boys’ teams bring in more money. Employers could still have differing pay grades based on merit, seniority, training, and education differences among workers.
Rather than pay equality as we imagine it now, where only men and women with the same job titles should be paid the same, such an approach, often called comparable worth or pay equity, would seek to equalize pay for people doing different but similar work. This focus addresses the part of the gender wage gap caused by the fact that women choose or are limited to lower-paid work. Low-skilled fields that are 25 percent or less female pay nearly $150 more a week than those dominated by women. At the higher end of the skillset, male-dominated jobs pay nearly $500 more a week than those crowded with women.
Such an approach used to be widespread: As of 1989, 20 states had made comparable worth adjustments within their own workforces, spending more than $527 million between 1983 and 1992 to adjust 335,000 lower-paid women’s pay. This eliminated 20 percent of the gender wage gap, and in five states — Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, and Connecticut — it was reduced by 25 to 33 percent. And a research paper found that the reductions in the wage gap were due to the programs, not other factors.
But they have since mostly faded away. One state, Minnesota, still has a robust program that requires all cities, counties, school districts, and other government entities to assess and adjust the pay scales between men and women every three years. Gaps crop up in the intervening time — last year, just 64 percent of the entities had equitable pay when the compliance process began — but they get addressed in the end. Yet it still focuses on the public sector; a push to move it into the state’s private sector by requiring companies that contract with it to analyze pay equity didn’t get approval last year.
Oregon’s second bill, HB2007, could also have a big impact on the state’s gender wage gap. Currently, about half of all workers across the country say that they are prohibited or discouraged from discussing their salaries. That makes it hard for anyone experiencing wage discrimination to find out what’s going on and correct it; Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was named, didn’t find out she was being unfairly paid less than her male coworkers for 19 years.
On the other hand, wherever there’s salary transparency there’s a smaller wage gap. It’s much smaller for the federal workforce, where few workers are prohibited from talking about pay and wage scales are usually public, and has shrunk significantly over the last decade. It’s also 40 percent smaller for unionized workers than for non-union ones and has been falling, and union representation often helps make wage scales transparent.
Little improvement on the gender wage gap has been made nationally. It steadily shrank between the 1960s and 1900s but progress has since slowed to a crawl, with basically none made over the last decade. A federal bill would similarly ban salary secrecy but has been repeatedly blocked by Republicans, while the pay equity, which is part of the Fair Pay Act, hasn’t been on the agenda in many years.
This article originally appeared in thinkprogress.org on February 10, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media
Republicans are mounting a counteroffensive against Equal Pay Day, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and indeed the very notion that equal pay is a serious issue. Since you can’t straight-up admit to opposing equal pay, the substance of the Republican counteroffensive is essentially this: We support equal pay. Just not any efforts to actually make it a reality.
It’s misleading, they say, to say that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, because that’s not entirely a result of active discrimination. So let’s dismiss the social forces that lead to jobs dominated by women being paid less than jobs dominated by men, let’s dismiss the pressures that push women into lower-paying jobs or out of the workforce altogether, and then, just for good measure, let’s also wave away active, intentional discrimination. Because you can’t deal with that without government action or lawsuits against employers, and as Republicans, we’re definitely opposed to both of those things. So, oops, looks like there’s nothing we can do.
And talking about unequal pay is bad because, in the words of Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women’s Forum, “Perpetuating the myth that women are a victim class harms women and makes them feel weak.” Heavens, no. Women are empowered by their lack of economic power, I suppose.
Republicans are also rolling out their more general answer on their problems attracting women voters, and of course, again, the answer is not to promote policies that help women. It’s to jump up and down pointing at the few women they have in office now. “See! Women! Now vote for us, ladies.” Never mind that of the 20 women in the Senate, just four are Republican (and while Democrats control the Senate, it’s not by a four to one margin, sadly). Never mind that of the 82women in the House, just 20 are Republicans—8.2 percent of their party’s House membership, compared to 29 percent of the Democratic Party’s House membership. (Which is to say, Democrats need to improve, but Republicans are downright pathetic.)
So, in keeping with their lack of interest in policy solutions for problems that women in particular face, Republicans are on the phone to Politico every other day announcing some new discussion of how they already represent women super well, thanks very much, and are now ready to make sure that women voters understand this. But, uh:
House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the only GOP woman in leadership in either chamber. There are also fewer female Republican candidates running than in past election cycles.
But never mind all that! After all, they’re making a sincere effort to keep any of their male candidates and incumbents from talking publicly about legitimate rape this time around, so it’s all good, right? Right?
This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on April 8, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.