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National NOW Times >> Summer 2002 >> Article

Pay Equity Still a Dream Worth Pursuing

New Report Shows Glass Ceiling Intact

by Cristina Bull, Field Organizer/Volunteer Coordinator

This year's Equal Pay Day, April 16, passed by with the glass ceiling intact and full-time employed women still being paid only 73 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women of color continue to fare even worse, with an African-American woman receiving, on average, only 65 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, and a Hispanic woman receiving only 53 cents to the same dollar.

Equal Pay Day is the date in the new year when women finally catch up to men's earnings from the previous year. This symbolic day demonstrates that women have to work more than three extra months in the next year to achieve the same pay that men received in the previous year. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) spoke at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, April 16, Equal Pay Day.

Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act nearly 40 years ago, the wage gap stubbornly persists, narrowing at the dismal rate of slightly more than one third of a penny per year. NOW, a longtime proponent of pay equity, continues to champion not only equal pay for equal work, but also equal pay for work of comparable worth.

NOW activists are not the only ones concerned with pay equity issues. Also alarmed about the status of women in the workplace are Representatives John D. Dingell, D-Mich., and Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. They commissioned a report, "A New Look Through the Glass Ceiling: Where are the Women?" using data compiled by the General Accounting Office (GAO) from the Current Population Survey.

The ten industries surveyed by the GAO employ 71 percent of all employed women and 73 percent of female managers. The results confirm what most women already know from experience: women who are full-time managers are paid less and advance less often than male managers. The data also revealed an alarming setback: the wage gap between female managers and their male counterparts widened between 1995 and 2000 in seven of the ten industries.

There are several bills pending in Congress that would begin to deal with this persistent problem. NOW Times readers can take action by signing the Pay Equity NOW! petition and by forwarding the link to other activists so they can sign it as well. The petition, initiated by the International Wages for Housework Campaign and the Coalition of Labor Women and endorsed by NOW, demands that the U.S. government actively endorse pay equity and maternity care provisions, and that it sign, ratify, and implement stipulations in international conventions enabling women to receive the equal pay they have rightly earned. Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) spoke at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, April 16, Equal Pay Day.

Pay discrimination has multiple negative repercussions for women and their families. For some women it decreases spending power, while for others, making up the difference in wages would lift them out of poverty.

According to a report by the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women's Policy Research, if women were paid the same as men who work the same number of hours, have the same education and union status, are the same age, and live in the same region of the country, then these women's annual family income would rise by $4,000 and poverty rates would be cut in half. Working families would gain an astounding $200 billion in family income annually.

In addition to adverse consequences in the present, the wage gap threatens women's retirement security as lower pay leads to a pension gap and reduced Social Security benefits.

"For a wage gap to exist in 2002 is shameful; for it to widen in some industries is inexcusable," says NOW Action Vice President Olga Vives. "Women must speak out against pay discrimination and call for action to speed up the glacial pace at which the gap is closing."

For more information on economic justice and to sign the pay equity petition, visit NOW's Economic Equity page or call 202-628-8669, ext. 145.

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