Pay Equity and the Wage Gap. Interview with Policy Expert from National Partnership for Women & Families.
According to a recent Pew Research study, the gender pay gap in the United States remains a serious issue for women workers. In 2022, women ages 25 to 34 earned on average 92 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned. The gender wage gap for workers of all ages was 18 cents. And according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau analyzing full-time workers, in 2021, women earned 84% of what their male counterparts earned. More than half of U.S. adults agree that a major reason for this gap stems from women being treated differently by employers (Aragao).
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization with the goal of achieving equality for all women. National Partnership advocates for fairness in the workplace, health and economic justice, reproductive rights, and policies that support women and families. Vasu Reddy, senior policy counsel for economic justice and member of National Partnership's economic justice team spoke with the Garden State Woman Education Foundation about the importance of Equal Pay Day, the current state of women pay equity, and what we can do as a collective society to move progress forward.
- What exactly is Equal Pay Day and what does it symbolize?
Equal Pay Day symbolizes the amount of extra time that women and women of color must work in order to make the same amount that men made in the previous year. In other words, for every man that makes an average salary working full-time for one year, because of the pay gap, women must work a certain number of months longer in order to earn the same amount of pay. Equal Pay Day is meant to show how women's work is being devalued and bring awareness to the discrimination that is still present in the workplace.
- Why is there still a problem with women getting paid equally even in 2023?
While there has been some progress in reducing the wage gap in the last few decades, explains Reddy, the problem is that discrimination is still a serious issue we face. We still have employers and managers who hold certain stereotypes and who have negative views of women and people of color. Discrimination is the obvious culprit as to why the wage gap is still an issue even now in 2023, however, it isn't the only factor.
Part of the reason for the wage gap is due to lots of invisible factors, one of them being occupational segregation, or job segregation, which is the tendency for women-dominated fields to pay less than male-dominated fields. Much of this tendency comes down to how society values work that is traditionally considered women's work. For example, nursing and education are typically women-dominated fields, yet jobs in these fields are not very high-paying professions despite providing incredible value to our society. However, there are some male dominated professions that take similar amounts of work, effort, or skills and are paid more than these women-dominated positions. Discrimination and occupational segregation are just two prevalent causes of the persistent wage gap. Additionally, sexual, racial, and intersectional harassment is still a major issue and can drive women out of the workplace, forcing them to take lower paying jobs. A combination of factors contribute to the wage gap, and while progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.
- What is the Paycheck Fairness Act?
The Paycheck Fairness Act would cover many ambiguities, loopholes, and policies employers may take advantage of to evade providing equal pay. One advantage is that it would give employees more transparency in knowing what their pay is compared to everyone else's. Currently, many businesses have a policy where an employee can be penalized or even fired for talking about one's pay with other employees. The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit that policy. Additionally, the Act would stop employers from requiring job applicants to provide their salary history as part of the screening process. If a woman is underpaid in her previous job and her new job uses her previous salary to set her new salary, then discrimination will follow her for the rest of her life. The idea is that the Act would prevent discrimination from following a woman over to each new job she takes. The Paycheck Fairness Act would give federal enforcement agencies some extra tools to uncover and combat discrimination, including tools to gather data that will allow them to identify which industries or which companies would be a good target for further equality enforcement. It will also help businesses understand how they can improve their equal pay practices and give recognition to employers who have good equal pay practices.
- What can we do as a society to move progress forward?
The first thing people can do is understand what the law is in their state and their employer's policy about discussing pay. If your employer prohibits you from speaking to your coworkers about pay, you can still talk about it in public or in other professional groups that are not in your workplace setting. If you are allowed to talk to your coworkers about pay, than you should because that is how you can identify discrimination. Another tip is to pay attention to the various Equal Pay Days throughout the year. Join in on social media and look out for local events that commemorate Equal Pay Day. Upcoming Equal Pay Days are the LGBTQIA+ Equal Pay Awareness Day on June 15, Black Women's Equal Pay Day on July 27, Moms' Equal Pay Day on August 15, Latina's Equal Pay Day on October 5, and Native Womens' Equal Pay Day on November 30.
For more information on the National Partnership for Women & Families, visit NationalPartnership.org.
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