Yesterday was Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into 2014 women have to work in order to earn what men earned in 2013. President Obama commemorated the day by signing two executive orders: one to make it illegal to retaliate against federal contractors who discuss their salaries and another order calling for the collection of data to identify pay disparities based on gender and race.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, vice chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, honored the day by releasing a report on trends in women's earnings and retirement savings (spoiler alert: On average, women will retire with less in the bank than men).
The media attention pay equity received is heartening. Even bars capitalized on the opportunity, with some plugging Equal Pay Day (un)happy hour drink specials. But we must not let its buzz fade until next April. Let's keep the following things in mind, even after Equal Pay Day:
1. Pay equity is a family issue.
In almost 60 percent of American households with children, both parents work, according to U.S. Labor Department statistics. Almost half of husband-and-wife households without children (the department's data doesn't account for same-sex families) are dual income. So when we hear pay equity framed as a women's issue, let's remember that women's issues are family issues.
2. The pay gap is shrinking but persistent.
Women have come a long way in earnings from about 30 years ago, but we are still not at equity. According to the Pew Research Center, the gender wage gap has narrowed from 36 cents in 1980 to 16 cents today. Pew's estimate is based on hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers and finds women earn 84 percent of what men earn.
Whether we're talking about 77 cents or 84 cents, women still aren't earning -- dollar for dollar -- what men earn.
Narrowing is good; nonexistent is better.
3. The Paycheck Fairness Act is still not law.
With more women's voices in Congress, it could be. Senate Republicans today blocked debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill met similar fate in 2010 and 2012, too. The legislation makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who discuss their salaries, opens up employers to civil action for retaliation, and requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers.
Elevating women's pay on par with their male counterparts isn't only symbolic, it is practical. Is there a more literal marker of how we value women than how we compensate their time and talent? It is a step forward for women's leadership as well.
As President Obama said when answering claims that the pay gap is a non-issue: "It's not a myth. It's math." Pay equity + equal representation = stronger democracy. Here's hoping for more equal pay and fewer Equal Pay Days in years to come.
Let's keep the momentum going.