March 20, 2021

Even though we are in the middle of Women’s history Month, EQUAL PAY DAY does not happen until April 2nd.  It is interesting to note that this recognition is not a demand for women to be paid the same wage for the same work.  Rather, April 2 is the day in the US when women try to catch up to what men typically earned the previous year.  The date varies in other countries.  Women make about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes in the US, according to Census data crunched by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  While the wage gap is slowly closing, women, even those with university and professional degrees, face wage discrimination and other obstacles to achieving pay equity.

When I looked up the gender difference online, I found that many say the gender pay gap has been attributed to women’s own choices.  Women tend to select lower-paid, female-dominant professions, or they decide to take time off to care for children.   However, those factors do not account for the disparity says Kim Churches, AAUW’s chief executive officer.  Women are paid less than men even a year out of college.  Female business majors earned $38,000 a year after graduation, compared to $45,000 for men.  And while it is often assumed that education is the best way to close the gap, that is not a guarantee of equality based on gender.

The pay gap tends to be narrower for minimum-wage and service jobs, such as food service.   For accountants, auditors, physicians and surgeons, women experience the biggest pay gap.  The gap also varies from state to state because individual states’ economies and the laws are applied differently as states discourage and punish wage discrimination.  States whose primary industries tend to be male dominated have even wider pay gaps.  Churches says, “We also see that there is a clear distinction between states that have put equal pay legislation and other policies that are supportive of women into place and those that have not.”  It appears white males’ practice equal opportunity discrimination.

Thoughts:  Experts tell us the remedy is only partly in laws and regulations.  Federal law bans wage discrimination based on sex (as do many states).  Both the federal government and states need to go further.  One way is to ban questions about salary history so prospective employers will not base wages on previous jobs.  The Paycheck Fairness Act was presented in 2019 and approved by the House of Representatives.  The Republican controlled Senate at the time did not see the need to take the legislation up.  Laws and workplace policies need to reflect the new changing labor market, and women need to be included.  A Pew Research Center study from 2013 found that a record 40 percent of households with children under 18 had women as the primary breadwinners.  These same households comprise most children living in poverty.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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