Today, April 4, is Equal Pay Day, representing how far into the new year women on average have to work to earn what men earned in the previous calendar year. It’s an opportunity to call attention to the pay gap experienced by working women and people of color, and to commit to taking action to close the gap.
Overall women are still paid just 80 cents for every dollar a man gets, but that’s just part of the story. For women of color, women living with disabilities, mothers, queer women, and transgender and gender nonconforming people, there’s a much bigger pay gap and a much later Equal Pay Day.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day isn’t until August, because Black women earn just 63 cents for every dollar that white man, the highest earners, make. Latinas earn just 54 cents to that dollar, barely more than half, and Latina Equal Pay Day isn’t until November. Yes, you read that right - it takes Latinas nearly two years to make what white men make in one!
This isn’t just about cents and dates on the calendar though. We’re talking about real money that adds up, and costs women and families tens of thousands of dollars over a year and hundreds of thousands over a career. Closing the pay gap would improve the quality of life for women and families - more money for rent and groceries, more money for child care and college, more money for retirement savings and security.
The gender pay gap comes from many interwoven factors, but it also has many interwoven solutions that we can all commit ourselves to fighting for on Equal Pay Day and beyond.
Sometimes it’s about women being paid less than men for doing the same work. For Leisa from Texas, a new employer asking about her previous salary combined with a workplace culture of pay secrecy led to a history of unequal pay following her to a new job.
Overall women are still paid just 80 cents for every dollar a man gets, but that’s just part of the story.
Sometimes it’s about those intersections of identity, when race or pregnancy or transgender discrimination increase the pay gap. For Deb from Colorado, employment discrimination against trans women meant being penniless and homeless. For Yolanda from Texas, it meant being a bilingual Latina searching for work and being offered lower pay. Christina from Colorado was forced to leave her job to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Sometimes it’s about women’s labor being undervalued and jobs paying less just because they’re done predominantly by women. As 9to5 National Board Co-Chair Gloria Smith from Georgia says, “Why should someone caring for your beloved children make minimum wage while someone performing basic car maintenance makes a solid living?”
And sometimes it’s about being responsible for family caregiving but not being able to pay the bills. Keisha from Wisconsin lays out how not having access to paid sick days or paid family leave forced her to have to choose between her family’s health and a consistent paycheck, and punished her financially for taking care of her family.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom! We have concrete solutions to improve our lives and the lives of our families right now and reduce the wage gap. We can come together to speak out for those solutions and organize to turn them into reality.
Solutions like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance so that no one has to risk a paycheck or a job to take care of their health or that of a family member. Raising minimum wage and eliminating the lower, subminimum wage for tipped workers so that jobs done mainly by women are valued and paid more fairly. Strengthening existing laws against discrimination and expanding those protections so that no one is paid less because of who they are.
These are not the only causes of or the only solutions to the pay gap. But they give us all some ideas of where we can start, on Equal Pay Day, to take action.
Join with others who are already speaking out and advocating for equity and equality. Women like Christina and Keisha above. Christina was part of a 9to5 organizing campaign last year that won workplace accommodations for pregnant workers in Colorado. And Keisha is speaking out for proposals in Wisconsin and nationally that would provide paid leave for workers when they need time to recover from a serious illness, care for an ill family member, or welcome a new child to the family.
Today, on Equal Pay Day, commit to getting involved and taking action. And then, follow through.