Today is Equal Pay Day, a national misnomer dedicated to the sad reality that in 2012 women in modern day America have to work an extra 3.5 months -- April 17th to be exact -- for their 2011 earnings to match what men were paid on average in 2011.
I find that there is cruel irony in having Equal Pay Day fall on Tax Day. Women and men share the responsibility of paying taxes, but there is no sharing when it comes to receiving equal pay for comparable work.
Since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the gap between men and women's earnings has narrowed by less than a half-cent per year. At this rate American women will have to wait until 2062 to bring home the same salary as their male counterparts. That's a long fifty years for women who currently earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man takes home.
Now some might attribute this disparity to different career choices, but the truth is that the wage gap exists in every sector in the economy. In fact, 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.
Over a lifetime of full-time work (47 years) the gap amounts to lost wages for women of between $700,000 and $2 million depending on education level. These real losses affect not only women, but they impact millions of children in households across America that depend on working moms.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, if the wage gap were eliminated, working women in California would have enough money for:
- 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.
The House leadership has the power to bring a legislative solution, The Paycheck Fairness Act, to the House floor for a vote as well as an obligation to working women and their families. I am a cosponsor of this bill which would strengthen the enforcement of the 1963 Equal Pay Act while providing businesses with training and resources to ensure they are in compliance with the law.
Ending the wage gap will be an investment in our country's well-being. Equal pay for equal work is an American value that I hope Speaker Boehner will honor by bringing the Paycheck Fairness Act to the floor for a vote.
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