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APRIL 2014 - Equal Pay
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Red Is Not the New Black - Equal Pay Day 2014


On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, women across the United States will be wearing red.  This will not be a fashion statement.  April 8th is Equal Pay Day—the approximate point into the new year that a woman must work in order to earn the wages paid to a man in the previous year—and wearing red is symbolic of how far women and minorities are “in the red” with their pay. 

            How bad is the situation?  On a national level, women are paid about 76.5 cents for every dollar a man is paid, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures on median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers in 2012.  Economist Evelyn Murphy, president and founder of The WAGE Project, estimates that the wage gap costs the average American full-time woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her lifetime.   As noted by the National Committee on Pay Equity, U.S. Census Bureau figures reflect that the situation for African American women and Latinas is even worse than the situation for women overall.  In 2010, the median earnings for African American women were $32,290, or 67.7 percent of all men's earnings (up from 67.5 percent in 2009), and Latinas' earnings were $27,992, or 58.7 percent of all men's earnings (up from 57.7 percent in 2009).  Across races and ethnicities, the statistics reflect that women consistently make less than men in their own racial or ethnic group.  The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 median annual earnings figures for full-time, year-round workers show that white women make 77.9 percent of white men’s earnings, African American women make 88 percent of African American men’s earnings, Asian American women make 77.6 percent of Asian American men’s earnings, and Latinas and Hispanic women make 88.2 percent of Latino or Hispanic men’s earnings. (Institute for Women’s Policy Research Fact Sheet on The Gender Wage Gap: 2012, updated September 2013.)  A 2012 report published by the American Association of University Women, Graduating to a Pay Gap, shows that, among college educated women, the wage gap for women working full time becomes apparent just one year after graduation. 

            But haven’t things generally gotten better over the last several decades?  Sure.  The National Committee on Pay Equity notes that the wage gap has narrowed by about 15 percentage points during the last 23 years.  Yet, much of the change in the wage gap is calculated to have resulted from a fall in men’s real earnings, with only about 40 percent of the change attributed to the increase in women's wages.  Moreover, progress has slowed.  The Institute for Women's Policy Research estimated in 2013 that, if the pace of change in women’s relative wages since 1960 continues without acceleration, it will take another 45 years to close the wage gap.  Put another way, women will need to wait until 2058 for pay equity.

            What are the causes of the wage gap?  The National Committee on Pay Equity takes the position that:

The wage gap exists, in part, because many women and people of color are still segregated into a few low-paying occupations. More than half of all women workers hold sales, clerical and service jobs. Studies show that the more an occupation is dominated by women or people of color, the less it pays. Part of the wage gap results from differences in education, experience or time in the workforce. But a significant portion cannot be explained by any of those factors; it is attributable to discrimination. In other words, certain jobs pay less because they are held by women and people of color.

 

(See http://www.pay-equity.org/info-Q&A.html.)  The Graduating to a Pay Gap report published by the American Association of University Women concludes that, while college major, occupation, and hours at work accounted for part of the pay gap among college women one year after graduation, one-third of the gap “remains unexplained, suggesting that bias and discrimination are still problems in the workplace.” 

            So, what can we do about the wage gap?  Wearing red on April 8th is a way of bringing attention to the issue, but it obviously will not resolve any of the underlying problems.  Learn more.  If your wages are negotiable, become familiar with strategies to obtain pay commensurate with your worth.  Become involved.  Encourage your workplace to conduct salary audits.  Only by arming ourselves with the facts and taking steps to address the issue will we see pay equity during our working lives.

 

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