Pay Equity

Equal Pay Day – April 14, 2015

To match men’s earnings for 2014, women will have to work from January 2014 into April 2015—almost an extra four months. Equal Pay Day takes place on a Tuesday in April and symbolizes the point in the next year to which a woman must work to achieve pay equity for the previous year.  But Equal Pay Day is not just about disseminating information, it is also about mobilizing around the issue to educate your community and continue the process of change.

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2015)

<!– February 03, 2015 –>

You’ve probably heard that men are paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. But what does that mean? Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do? Or is it because women tend to be the primary caregivers for their children?

AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap succinctly addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 78 percent statistic. The report explains the pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races, and education levels; and what you can do to close it.

 

A Look Back at where Pay Equity Has Been and where It’s Going

January 20, 2015

When it comes to reaching pay equity, the pace of change is glacial. Just how long will it take until we see equal pay? At this rate, it could be more than 100 years.

A line chart shows regression analysis on the rate of change for the pay gap since 1960. The rate of change from 1960 to the present suggests that the pay gap will close in 2058, but the rate of change over the last 10 years suggests that the gap won’t close until 2139.

Equal pay for women in the United States is a relatively new concept. It was not that long ago that women were routinely paid less than men in the same jobs were paid. In the 1930s, the federal government actually required that its female workers be paid 25 percent less than male workers in the same jobs.

In the 1950s, congressional representatives began to introduce bills for equal pay for women, but passage of such legislation would wait until 1963, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act.

Legislation set the stage, but it would be another two decades before wages began to move toward actual pay equity. In the 1980s and 90s, women’s earnings rose at a steady pace. The pay gap reflects many factors, but the dramatic increase in the numbers of female college graduates is indisputably a driving force behind women’s rising earnings during this time. Thanks to education coupled with longer careers, women’s earnings rose and the pay gap shrank. More recently, however, as these social changes stabilized into the status quo, the pace of change has slowed to a near halt.

As shown in the graph, if we analyze the change in the pay gap from the 1960s to now, we could extrapolate and expect to see pay equity in 2058. But the trend over the last decade suggests that we won’t see equal pay until 2139. So is the recent or long-term past a better predictor of the future?

While I would like believe that the more optimistic model, I am going to go with the recent decade. Unless we expect to experience the kind of social change that started in the 1960s, we have to assume a slower pace of change moving forward. Sadly, if the recent past is then the best predictor, the pay gap is not going to close for another 124 years.

Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to speed along the process. Companies can adopt policies to support flexible work schedules as well as conduct job audits to ensure fairness. Colleges and universities can encourage young women to consider higher paying fields such as engineering and computing. Individuals can serve as mentors and sponsors for the next generation of women. Women and girls can do many things on their own behalf, including honing their negotiation skills and knowledge of the job market. Policy advocates can help channel public resources into child care and other forms of care giving and urge Congress to move forward the long-stalled Paycheck Fairness Act. And, of course, you can join AAUW, where we’ll keep our focus on achieving pay equity — however long it takes.

What is Pay Equity?
Pay equity refers to the elimination of sex and race discrimination in the setting of wages: it means fair pay for work. Pay equity encompasses:

    • Equal pay for equal or the same work where identical jobs are compared;
    • Equal pay for work of an equal value or comparable worth for jobs that are not identical but are of an equal value, for example, a nurse and a carpenter;
    • Strategies that address women‘s low pay and promote a living wage;
    • Ending discrimination in pay scales and systems.

What is the gender wage gap?
The gender wage gap is the difference between women‘s and men‘s wages, usually expressed as a percentage difference. Currently, women‘s annual earnings are 78 percent of men’s annual earnings.

Isn’t the wage gap beginning to close?
While the wage gap has begun to narrow – women were only earning 59 percent of men‘s earning when the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1962, women continue to face a wage gap at every educational level. Women‘s achievements in higher education are partly responsible for narrowing the wage gap in the last several decades and there are more women earning college and professional degrees. Unfortunately, the narrowing of the gap is also partly caused by a decline in the real value of the wages of men without college degrees.

Wasn’t there already a law passed about giving women equal pay?
Legislative actions have been taken by states and the federal government to address pay inequity. In 1962, the Equal Pay Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 making it illegal to pay men and women different wages for jobs requiring the same level of skill, effort, and responsibility, performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.  The jobs do not need to be identical, but must be substantially equal. It is job content, not titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. (26) This amendment helped to usher in the concept that, legally, women should be paid the same for the same work. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in compensation because of race, color, religion, national origin, and/or sex.

Why do we need additional legislation?
The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are important laws, but can be hard to enforce, and legal cases are difficult to prove and win. Because enforcement of the laws is complaint driven and most of the information needed to prove a complaint is held by employers, these laws lack the ability to eliminate discriminatory pay practices.