Chances are you've heard of the gender pay gap. Whether you've experienced it yourself, listened to a friend's story, or heard about it on the news or in campaign ads, the pay gap is a harsh reality for women. But the recently released 80 cent earnings ratio of women to men is only part of the story. For women of color and other underrepresented groups, the pay gap is even worse.
According to the latest U.S. Census data from 2015, the new 80 cent number isn't a statistically significant change from 2014, and it corroborates a clear trend - the gender pay gap hasn't budged in almost a decade. So, women generally got a raise of less than a penny last year. Don't spend it all in one place, ladies!
When we dig a little deeper into the data - remember, the gender pay gap is not myth, its math! - we see that the pay gap impacts different groups of women differently. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) just updated our biannual report, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, which provides an in-depth analysis and examination of the pay gap across demographics including geography, education level, and occupation, while also focusing on the pay gap's specific impact on underrepresented groups including women of color, moms, LGBTQ individuals, and workers with disabilities. The cliff notes version of this report could be summed up like this "The pay gap is real, it's pernicious, and it's not going away without serious policy interventions and widespread advocacy."
The majority party in both chambers of Congress have been twiddling their collective thumbs and failing to pass much needed legislation. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is in dire need of an update - an update the Paycheck Fairness Act specifically provides. Yet partisan bickering and inaction on Capitol Hill have pushed this critical legislation to the sidelines, when women desperately need it to be on the field. Thankfully, state legislatures - red, blue and purple - have been able to take some action while Congress is mired in gridlock.
As if we needed more evidence that action is needed, the disheartening truths about the pay gap when coupled with education, race, and wages. Across all racial and ethnic groups, American women are now earning more college and postgraduate degrees than men. But that doesn't mean the pay gap disappeared - at every level of academic achievement, women's median earnings are less than men's median earnings. This also rings true with the racial pay gap as white women are paid more than African American, Hispanic, and Native American women at all education levels. Research can find factors accounting for some, but not all, of these discrepancies - it is clear that discrimination can be held responsible for a good portion of these pay gaps.
Pay discrimination also rears its head in other communities. Research suggests that gay and bisexual men are paid less than similarly qualified heterosexual men. While lesbian women may earn the same or more as heterosexual women, both groups still earn less than men, whether heterosexual or gay. At the same time, there is a prominent pay gap between male and female workers with disabilities - an earnings ratio of 68 percent. These numbers reveal that the pay gap is a persistent problem that affects far too many people, and it's past time we addressed it.
The timing of this new data and AAUW report is apt, since we will be "celebrating" Latina Equal Pay Day on November 1, 2016. That's right, Hispanic women have to work almost an entire EXTRA YEAR to catch up to the wages taken home by white, non-Hispanic men in 2015. The numbers aren't much better for other racial and ethnic groups, moms, LGBT individuals, or workers with disabilities. We just celebrated Black Women's Equal Pay Day back on August 23 and women as a whole had their own collective Equal Pay Day on April 12. In the words of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) (the mother of the Paycheck Fairness Act), women are tired of "celebrating" Equal Pay Day, and are ready to finally be able to celebrate Paycheck Fairness Day!
At this glacial pace, the pay gap won't close until 2152: 136 years! Women of color will have to wait even longer. But women and their families are not content to simply hope that our great-great-great granddaughters receive equal pay for equal work. It's time to come together on solutions for closing the pay gap once and for all - for everyone. Solutions include passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, eliminating salary history requests in job application processes, providing paid family and sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and empowering women to negotiate their salaries among other things. Anyone who is concerned with basic fairness should be working tooth and nail to not only close the gender pay gap, but to end salary discrimination for all groups of people. Remember: the pay gap exists in every state and it impacts different groups of women in different ways. That is everyone's problem, one we should all be dedicated to solving for the good of our country's families, and for a stronger national economy.
Want to learn more about our findings? Check out AAUW's The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.
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