It may or may not surprise you, but as a woman of color, I have been personally affected by wage discrimination. I have been working since I was 15, and since the age of 15 my male and white counterparts have made more than me. And I am not alone. I don't need statistics, all I have to do is look at my previous pay history. Nevertheless, the numbers may surprise you:
- Right now white women are making 77 cents to a man's dollar. Black women make 68 cents to the dollar and Hispanic women make 59 cents to the dollar.
- Mothers take enormous wage hits, with women who aren't mothers earning about 90 cents to a man's dollar, mothers earning 73 cents, and single mothers earning just about60 cents to a man's dollar. How did the overall average get to 77 cents to a man's dollar for women? Well, a full 81% of modern women have children by the time they are 44 years old -- and as we all know, once a mother, always a mother. (On top of wage hits, mothers also face extreme hiring discrimination with a recent study finding that with equal resumes and job experience, mothers are offered jobs 79% less of the time than non-mothers.)
- The earning gap exists between men and women across a variety of professions. For women physicians the wage gap is 61% of a man's dollar, 63% in sales related occupations. And in some areas, women are actually losing ground!
These are pretty scary numbers. That's why we need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. We've made real progress on pay equity in this country, and we continue to gain momentum. The signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act was a tremendous step toward victory in pay equity. But that was just the first step in the new administration.
The Equal Pay Act is more than 40 years old, and it needs updating. The Paycheck Fairness Act would, among other things, allow those who have been discriminated against to receive punitive and compensatory damages. It also prohibits employer retaliation. This is key because without the ability to learn about wage disparities with co-workers, it is difficult for an employee to evaluate whether or not they are being compensated fairly. Finally, the bill would provide increased training for EEOC employees to help them identify and respond to wage discrimination claims. There are several other positive provisions in the bill, and when you add them all up it makes sense to move this bill forward.
I know in my lifetime I will see the wage gap between men and women close. And with a new president and a new agenda, the time to move on this is now. Right now the Paycheck Fairness Act has more than 30 co-sponsors in the Senate. And it's already passed the House, with overwhelming numbers. We don't have much farther to go on this one.
Closing the wage gap helps women provide better economic security for their families, and it's also good for the economy. Family economic security is critical, now more than ever, and thankfully more and more people and organizations understand the link between closing wage gaps and getting families out of poverty. MomsRising.org is part of a coalition of groups who are working to make this happen.
Want to do your part to close the wage gap? Join us in sending a letter to your Senator urging them to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. Go to www.momsrising.org to find out more.
A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.