Today is “Equal Pay Day,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). Since 1996, the NCPE has designated a day every April to recognize the persistent gender-based pay equity gap in our country. The specific day – April 4, 2017 – represents the amount of additional time beyond the wages earned last year for a typical woman to earn the same as what a typical man was paid in 20016. Last year, Equal Pay Day was celebrated on April 12, 2016, so the earlier recognition this year represents at least some progress.
Indeed, we have come a long way since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President Kennedy in 1963. Then, women on average earned 59 cents for every dollar paid to a man. Now, the gap is closer to 20 cents on the dollar, although for African American (66%) and Hispanic (60%) women, the gap remains vast. While these numbers don’t represent a narrow “apples to apples” comparison, when more granular (same job to same job) studies are performed, this invariably confirms a persistent gender-based pay equity shortfall between what women and men earn.
The persistence of this gap is confounding, as women have attended post-secondary education in greater numbers than men for at least the last twenty years, and women, on average, receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Moreover, four of ten families have a woman as the equal or principal “breadwinner.” Finally, this gender pay gap gets worse as a woman ages. Women earn about 90% of what men earn through age 35, but beyond that point, the gap widens, to women earning less than 80% of what men earn after age 50.
At our present pace, it will take far more than a century to eliminate this gender gap (actually 169 years according to the NCPE). We can, and must, do better.
Responsible companies need to recognize that reliance on “market forces” when deciding on compensation for incoming employees, especially those at management levels, isn’t adequate, and will often simply perpetuate the pay equity gap confirmed in study after study. The same is true for compensation levels provided to promoted employees. If a company simply applies a “standard” percent raise for certain promotions, or links other benefits to what the promoted employee received at her last position, it is doing nothing to advance pay equity. Finally, if consideration of past leaves (which women need more frequently than men, if for no other reason than childbearing and childrearing) is a negative factor in deciding on annual compensation adjustments, this contributes directly to the pay equity gap that accelerates as women age.
Finally, women earning less than men need to be emboldened to challenge these disparities, as numerous federal and state laws provide a strong basis for such a challenge. These women will find willing and experienced advocates in the lawyers at Schaefer Halleen.
Additional Posts Regarding the Gender Pay Gap
- U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Controversy Reveals Persistence of Pay Equity Disparities
- Gender Wage Gap in the Legal Spotlight
Lawrence P. Schaefer has earned the respect of judges and other lawyers for his thorough and aggressive client advocacy in negotiation and litigation. He focuses exclusively on representing people who have been subject to employment discrimination at work. Larry serves as the firm’s President and head of litigation.