Today is Equal Pay Day—the day when women finally catch up to a man’s earnings from the previous year. Began by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996, the date symbolizes the persistent issue of pay inequality between the sexes worldwide.
In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Law, which made it illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job as their male peers on the basis of gender, which should have led to a rapid equalization in pay. It did not.
Today, women in the U.S. still make on average 77 cents less for every dollar a man earns.
Why didn’t the law in 1963 prove effective? For one, the government refused to enforce it. Not only that, Republicans have created laws that make enforcing the Equal Pay Law impossible and have blocked additional legislation that would lead to equity. For example in 2014, Senate Republicans unanimously blocked the Pay Equity Bill (Paycheck Fairness Act) that would have made it illegal for employers to punish workers who discuss their salaries. If workers cannot legally talk about their salaries, it is difficult to know who is being paid more and why.
Although the average pay discrepancy is 77 cents, the reality is much harsher for minority women. A study in 2016 found that white women make about 83 cents for every dollar but black women make 66 cents and Hispanic women make only 60 cents. Current estimates show that it will take 169 years for the world to completely close the economic gender gap, if women continue to fight to have it closed. If women and their supporters stop fighting, the numbers will reverse and conservative men will push to ensure that women have even less equity when it comes to pay, leadership opportunities, and growth.
Eileen Patten. (2016). “Racial, Gender Wage Gaps Persist in U.S. Despite Some Progress,” Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/01/racial-gender-wage-gaps-persist-in-u-s-despite-some-progress/