For full-time, year-round workers, women are paid on average only 77 percent of what men are paid; for women of color, the gap is significantly wider. These wage gaps stubbornly remain despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and a variety of other legislation prohibiting employment discrimination.
Women still are not receiving equal pay for equal work, let alone equal pay for work of equal value. This disparity not only affects women’s spending power, it penalizes their retirement security by creating gaps in Social Security and pensions.
Facts About Pay Equity
- According to the Shriver Report released in 2014, women’s average annual paychecks reflected only 77 cents for every $1.00 earned by men. Specifically for women of color, the gap is even wider: In comparison to a white, non-Hispanic man’s dollar, African American women earn only 64 cents and Latinas just 55 cents.
- Pay equity varies by location. In Washington, DC, women average 90 cents to every man’s dollar, partly due to transparency in government wages. Ironically, the “Equality State” is the worst, with women in Wyoming earning just 64 percent of what their male counterparts make.
- In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was passed, full-time working women were paid 59 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. This means it took 44 years for the wage gap to close just 18 cents — a rate of less than half a penny a year. This narrowing of the gap has slowed substantially since the turn of the century.
- Women’s median pay was only equal in personal care and service work as of 2009. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study from 2009, construction was the industry closest to gender pay equity. Even men working in the 20 most common occupations for women earn more than women working in those same occupations.
- According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), if equal pay for women were instituted immediately, across the board, it would result in an annual $447.6 billion gain nationally for women and their families. Over fifteen years, a typical woman loses $499,101 due to pay inequity.
- When The WAGE Project looked exclusively at full-time workers, they estimated that women with a high school diploma lose as much as $700,000 over a lifetime of work, women with a college degree lose $1.2 million and professional school graduates may lose up to $2 million. Not only are these inequities enormously detrimental to women and their families, wage inequities follow women into their retirement years, reducing their Social Security benefits, pensions, savings and other financial resources.
- A study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) examined how the wage gap affects college graduates. Wage disparities kick in shortly after college graduation, when women and men should, absent discrimination, be on a level playing field. One year after graduating college, women are paid on average only 82 percent of their male counterparts’ wages, and during the next 10 years, women’s wages fall even further behind, dropping to only 69 percent of men’s earnings ten years after college. According to the AAUW report, “even after researchers controlled for age, education, hours worked beyond full time, industry sector, marital status, and presence of children in the household, female managers still earned just 81 percent of what male managers did, leaving an unexplained 19 percent pay gap,” and later observed, “women continue to earn less than men do, even when they make the same choices.”
- Women still are segregated into “pink-collar” jobs that affect their wages, according to an AAUW report. Based on their analysis of Department of Education data, 40 percent of women work in historically female occupations like social work, teaching and nursing, but only five percent of men were employed in these fields as of 2013. Even women studying in STEM fields are relegated to the typing pool. Female science and business majors are twice as likely as men in the same fields to find jobs in clerical work. Men get into management instead.
- A far greater proportion of women cut back or interrupt time in the paid workforce to deal with family responsibilities. 15 years after graduating college, male business school graduates of the University of Chicago were making 75 percent more than female graduates–unless those women had no children and rarely took time off.
- Time out of the workforce can directly impact women’s earning potential. Often mothers returning to the workforce experience a ”motherhood penalty.” Employers are less likely to hire moms. If mothers are hired, they tend to be paid less than childless women, a pay cut worth more than their time outside the workforce. Fathers are not punished compared to other men.
- It is important to note that women’s choices regarding work are not made in a vacuum. Factors that impact women’s decisions include: workplace discrimination, either experienced or anticipated; a lack of women-friendly policies and resources in the workplace; persistent stereotypes that steer women and men toward different education, training and career paths; different societal expectations for wives compared to husbands and mothers compared to fathers; and myriad forms of sexism, both subtle and blatant.