No matter how far we’ve come in establishing gender equality, a significant pay gap between men and women still remains an important problem that needs to be addressed. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, at a time when women made just 59% of what their male counterparts earned. Now, almost half a century later the gap still stands at 80%.
This April 4th, Equal Pay Day is more than a symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness on how women continue to earn less than men for the same work; it’s a call to action. To understand the importance of dedicating a day to the cause, you need to be aware of some troubling statistics that better reflect the difference.
Reports by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that there has been no significant improvement on the pay gap since 2007. Nationally, women in the United States are paid only 80 cents of every dollar paid to men, amounting to a pay gap of 20 percent. That’s not statistically much different from 2013 when average women working full time earned just 78 percent of what their male counterparts earned.
Pay disparity hits much harder in certain regions of United States like Wyoming (64%) and Louisiana (68%) as compared to New York (89%) and Washington (90%). It’s also more prevalent in certain industries. Finance, public administration, and professional or technical services are marked with the highest disparities. If you’re interested to see where your position falls on the spectrum, you can get a more specific calculation here.
The average women loses $530,000 in pay over a lifetime because of this difference. For highly educated women, it grows to around $800,000. Whether you’re a chef, a teacher, or business executive; when you hold the same qualifications and experience, and are clocking the same amount of hours, the work deserves to be equally valued and rewarded. The World Economic Forum has predicted that it can take more than 100 years to completely close the gap, unless employers are truly held accountable for their actions.
Women need to empower themselves and stand up for their rights. Learning to negotiate for equal pay, benefits, and promotions to get the parity they deserve helps, but it shouldn’t be only women driving the change. Policy makers need to improve the scope of the Equal Pay Act, which hasn’t been updated since the day it was first introduced. To achieve this goal businesses must also play their role and proactively address the gender-based differences in their companies.
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