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
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.
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.”
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.