Nel's New Day

April 17, 2012

unEqual Pay Day Returns

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 3:05 PM
Tags: , ,

Most people know that today is the deadline for paying 2011 taxes; fewer people may recognize this date as unEqual Pay Day. April 17, 2012 represents how far into 2012 women must work to match what men earned in 2011—an additional 107 days because,on average, women are paid 77 cents for each dollar that men receive. Over a lifetime, pay inequity costs the average woman between $700,000 and $2 million, losing women not only wages during their working years but also Social Security benefits after they retire. Millions of women are single mothers, so the lack of equal pay hurts millions of children in their households. Single women earn only 78.8 percent of what married women earn, and only 57 cents for every dollar that married males earn.

Think of what women could by if the wage gap were eliminated:

  • 62 more weeks of food;
  • four more months of mortgage and utility payments;
  • seven more months of rent;
  • 25 more months of family health insurance premiums; or
  • 1,914 additional gallons of gas.

Occupations dominated by men pay more, and then within occupations, men are paid more. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis reviewing the gender wage gap in the 20 most common occupations for men and women shows “women have lower median earnings than men in all but one of the 20 most common occupations for women, ‘bookkeeping and auditing clerks,’ where women and men have the same median earnings.” Women doctors earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts while female attorneys take home 78 cents for every dollar earned by male attorneys.

More than 40 percent of the wage gap cannot be explained by occupation, work experience, race, or union membership. More than one-quarter of the wage gap is due to the different jobs that men and women hold, and about 10 percent is due to the fact that women are more likely to leave the workforce to provide unpaid care to family members. But even when controlling for gender and racial differences, 41 percent is “unexplainable by measureable factors.” Even if women and men have the same background, the wage gap still exists, highlighting the fact that part of the discrepancy can be attributed to gender-based pay discrimination.

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), identifies state-by-state pay rankings. The wage gap is narrowest in the nation’s capital, where women have the best earnings ratio–91 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. The worst earnings ratio is in Wyoming, where women make 64 percent of men’s earnings. White and Asian women earn, respectively, 82 percent and 88 percent of white men’s earnings; African American and Hispanic women earn much less, just 70 percent and 61 percent of what white men earn, on average. Age also makes a difference: for working women between the ages of 25 to 29, the annual wage gap is $1,702 while in the last five years before retirement the annual wage gap jumps to $14,352.

To close this gender pay gap, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is co-sponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act which earlier failed in 2010. To update the ineffective Equal Pay Act of 1963, the new act prohibits retaliation for disclosure of compensation data from private sector employers while mandating that this information be available to employees. Those who fight this legislation fail to see that equal pay is also key to economic growth. Estimates show that the U.S. GDP would grow by up to 9 percent if women were given equal pay. These men also fail to realize that they would benefit if their female spouses were to earn equal salaries.

With conservatives currently controlling legislation, it’s highly unlikely that the Paycheck Fairness Act will make much progress this election year. Former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, again running for Congress, is an example of narrow view these people hold. He would like eliminate the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act because it’s “hurting business.” About the existing law, he said, That thing is a nuisance. It shouldn’t be the law.” Michigan is next door to Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker just signed into law a bill that removes the state equal pay requirement

During tonight’s interview of Mitt Romney by ABC’s Diane Sawyer, the Republican presidential candidate refuses to say whether he would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act which clarifies that the 180 day statute of limitations for filing a pay discrimination suit begins again with each new paycheck that contains the unfair pay. Romney claims that he doesn’t want to address prior laws, a very strange comment from the man who declares that he would have vetoed—and will work to repeal—several other laws including the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Romney is walking a very narrow line with during the next six-plus months. Almost 60 percent of women over the age of 16—66 million women—work, and we might assume that most of them think that they should earn equal pay for an equal job.

As ridiculous as equal pay for men and women may sound at this time, we cannot forget that women fought for the vote for 72 years. Despite the “war on women” that Republicans have declared, women can fight back—if not for themselves, then for their daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters.

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