“Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”* During his State of the Union Address, President Obama again reiterated his economic equality message that he eloquently spoke about in his inaugural address and on the campaign trail. His intent is clear. Congress should vote to pass and implement the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Paycheck Fairness Act builds upon the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and closes loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act. And while not a panacea, it is another tool at a worker’s disposal to challenge income disparity in the workplace itself while putting employers on notice that it’s no longer socially and culturally acceptable to pay women less for the same exact work.
The act would make it easier for those who are the targets of wage discrimination to address the issue, while allowing employees to disclose salary information with co-workers without fear of retaliation. The key bit is that employers would be required to show that any wage discrepancies are based on genuine business requirements and are related to specific characteristics of the position that are not based on the employee’s sex.
The empirical evidence is clear. Women earned 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man, while the corresponding ratios were 61 cents for African-American women and 52 cents for Hispanic women as compared to wages of white males. There is ample empirical evidence that shows that women, despite degrees, experience, and qualifications are underpaid compared to men at every point in our lives and that the wage gap has us loosing $400,000 over a lifetime of work!
Passing this bill will not be easy. It’s been introduced and defeated a number of times in the past but we need to keep advocating and talking about how this impacts us. Paycheck fairness is not just a ‘women’s issue’ but an economic issue that effects the bottom line of every household in our country. More and more, women head households and are the main breadwinners.
The social and cultural shift the Paycheck Fairness Act would provide cannot be underestimated. It would send a clear signal that women’s work is valuable and necessary. And that we expect to be compensated equally for our equal time and effort. Work that women perform is not a click above volunteering and a few clicks below the ‘real’ work that men do. The amount a woman loses to the pay gap could feed a family of four for 37 years.
Conservatives like to repeat the myths that women ‘chose’ lower paying careers and jobs and also ‘opt out’ of the workforce to perform caretaking roles. The evidence clearly shows though that at every step along her career, she will earn less. The pay gap starts early. One year out of college, women make 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers for doing similar work. A woman’s pay, on average, stops growing when she turns 39. For men, wage growth doesn’t stop until age 48.
National Women’s Law Center has a great myth and facts guide on the act along with other resources. Pass this stuff on.
Pen this in. April 9, 2013 pay equity day. This day symbolizes how long a woman must work in 2013 to earn equal what a man was given in 2012. Keep talking about the Paycheck Fairness Act. Call and write to your Congresscritters and tell them how this bill affects you personally. Let’s keep the pressure on for another win for workers!
* Yes, I hope President Obama reframes this important message, but I think his intent is meant well and made in good faith.