April 10 is Equal Pay Day—marking the number of extra days into 2018 the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2017.
No one who cares about economic justice and the rights of women is celebrating this occasion. Although Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the gender pay gap is still pervasive.
On average, women are paid just 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. For women of color, the gap is even wider. According to Pew Research, African American women on average earn only 66 cents and Latinas on average earn only 60 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.
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 that it took 55 years for the wage gap to close just 21 cents—a rate of less than half a penny a year. The narrowing of the gap has slowed substantially in recent years—in fact, at the current pace the wage gap won’t be closed until the year 2058.
That’s too long to wait. We need to erase Equal Pay Day from the calendar. Raising the minimum wage is a good first step. The minimum wage is a women’s issue—nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women.
Data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research show that the U.S. economy would grow by more than $512 billion if women received equal pay.
NOW is calling on Congress to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, and for localities and states to pass their own bills to close the gender wage gap. The EEOC must also reinstate the requirement that certain employers submit pay data and hours worked.
Let’s put an end to no one’s favorite holiday. Equal Pay Day is a reminder of how far we still have to go to achieve real equality.
Dee Donavanik , firstname.lastname@example.org