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The Gender Pay Gap Is Bad But Worse for Women of Color

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A recent Time article titled "The Pay Gap Is Not as Bad as You (and Sheryl Sandberg) Think" suggests that women are either somehow at fault or to blame for earning less than a male for the same job with the same skills, citing that women make poor career choices-- choosing jobs that pay less than ones selected by men. Women on average earn less than men for comparable jobs -- 77 cents in 2012 for every dollar a man earns. Past studies account for job choices and compare similar jobs in citing the pay differences between men and women. The reason that women are paid less than a man for equal work and experience is discriminatory and for no other reason. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women's salaries are outpaced by men almost everywhere from the highest paying occupations to the lowest paying occupations. Everywhere from doctors and lawyers to cashiers and lesser positions, women earn less than their male counterparts.

Even more disturbing in the pay equity debate is the fact that women of color earn even less than their white counterparts. Time 's article fails to discuss that women of color are at an even greater disadvantage in terms of pay equity. African-American women earn 64 cents to the dollar of what men earn. And Hispanic women make only 55 cents to every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns. The focus should be on those at the bottom of the ladder and not the ones with a college education. The loss in income for all women due to the pay gap means less money to support a family, with housing, food, education and health care. But for women of color, closing the pay gap is of even greater importance.

And for those women who are fortunate to attend college, pay tuition for a 4-year college education and get a degree, their reward will be to earn less than a man and receive on average 93 cents to every dollar a man earns. Time's article agrees with the American Association of University Women ("AAUW") studies that show that women start out in the workplace earning less straight out of college but seems to suggest that the difference is somehow acceptable and not as bad as we think. The article asserts that if a woman believes she is paid less than her male counterparts, then she can just sue under the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Where the problem is systemic throughout the country, that won't readily fix it. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D. MD) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D. CT) co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will require that an employer must justify paying a man more than a woman for the same job. It would also make it easier for women to file class action suits against their employers for alleged sex-based discrimination. It failed to pass in 2011 and 2012. It was re-introduced in 2013.

Overall, Time's article ignores the fact that less money paid to women than men adds up substantially over the lifetime of a woman's career, whether 55, 64, 77, or 93 cents for college educated women to a man's dollar. And at a time when a woman needs money the most, during her retirement years, she is going to have to survive on less money than her male counterparts due to all those pennies adding up over a 30-40 year work life span. And for women of color, she will have to live on one-third to 45 percent less than a man. The amount of a woman's wage determines her benefits for Social Security and pension. Over the lifetime of a working woman, new research shows that a woman's average earnings are more than $430,000 less than a comparable male counterpart over a 35 year working life. This disparity is due to unequal pay practices, namely discrimination and not to a woman's career choice.

Yes, Time magazine, the pay gap for women is as bad as we think and worse for women of color.