Since Equal Pay Day was established by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996, the gender pay gap has decreased by less than 10 cents. Between 2018 to 2019, this disparity remained virtually stagnant with women earning only 82 cents on average for every dollar their male counterparts make. The data paints an even bleaker picture when broken down by race, ethnicity, and parental status – Latina mothers make just 46 percent of what white fathers earn. And because the pandemic has forced millions of women out of the workforce, experts predict that the gap will widen. Women are facing an economic crisis, which makes this year’s Equal Pay Day especially significant.
Women, now taking on multiple roles at home, have suffered disproportionately because of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the past year, more than 2 million women have left the workforce. Mothers, who earned 75 cents on average to every dollar fathers earned before the pandemic, aren’t seeing pay raises that would reflect that they are now working harder and longer inside and outside the home; in fact, their labor is now valued less than before Covid. According to a report in Fortune Magazine, women lost three decades of gains in the labor market in 2020, alone. If these trends continue unchecked, we will experience an economic catastrophe that will reverse any progress made towards gender equality across the board.
NOW calls on Congress to finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is a critical step towards closing the pay gap. The bill was introduced in 1997 – a year after the first Equal Pay Day – and has been reintroduced by every Congress since. Yet it consistently failed because too many elected officials deny that systemic discrimination against women in the workplace even exists and that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 – a nearly 60-year-old law rife with loopholes – offers women sufficient protections. This bill would help close the loopholes that enable employers to practice wage discrimination based on gender and provide more protections for women. While the Paycheck Fairness Act is important, it is a step, not a solution. The worsening crisis proves that far more work needs to be done to ensure economic justice for all women.
Equal pay shouldn’t be controversial and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. When women do well their communities do well. We must work harder to close the pay gap, but it will take swift and decisive action.