06/20/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What!? 77 Cents to Every Dollar? Even Now?

I have to admit. It gets tiring saying and re-saying: "Women need equal pay for equal work." People just flat out don't believe this is still going on now.

I regularly hear things like: Isn't that something that got fixed several decades ago? An old problem that disappeared long ago along with separate want ads for men and women?


In fact, equal pay for equal work is so not resolved that today -- April 20, 2010 -- is the date in 2010 to which women must have worked since January 2009 (about 16 months) in order to earn what men earned in the 12 months of 2009. Yes, it's Equal Pay Day today.

Equal Pay Day isn't a day to celebrate. It's a day to eradicate.

It's ridiculous that modern women are still making less than men for the same work -- and Equal Pay Day will end when women and men are equally paid for equal work in each given year.

Here's where modern women stand: Overall women working full-time, year round make an average of 77 cents to every dollar that men make.

What!? 77 cents to every dollar? Even now?

Turns out the squeaky wheel of saying and re-saying is needed. 77 cents to a dollar in this modern age when women are now 50 percent of the entire paid labor force, and an increasing number of families are relying on the paychecks of women to make ends meet, is, well, pathetic.

Depressed about the current state of the pay gap; over toast and jam this morning, I asked my eleven-year-old daughter, Anna, what she thought. Anna didn't hesitate with her answer:

"I think women should make 23 cents more. Why should a human get paid differently than another human for the same work, or treated differently than another human? It shouldn't really be about women and men, but about humans. We're all humans, smart, live in houses, eat, sleep, garden, love the water, animals, holidays, and need money for kids."

Yeah, what she said.

Sadly, not enough folks are saying "Yeah, what she said," just now. In fact, this issue is typically invisible, with moments of action but with Congress mainly playing "ostrich" by sticking their heads in the sand. (Remember Congress is comprised of only 17 percent women at this point, which means that not many members of Congress have experienced the pay gap themselves so that particular sand often seems warm and friendly).

Ostrich moments and blame games about unequal pay are far more common than solution conversations.

That's right. It's not uncommon for people to blame the pay gap on women, as in: "It's your fault, women, for 'choosing' to get paid less."

But the data shows over and over again that in a straight-across line up of equal resumes in equal jobs, women still get paid less than men for the same work.

We all know blame games are lame. But this particular blame game goes beyond lame -- especially because we're in a time when more and more families are relying on the paychecks of women to put food on the table. According to the USDA, 1 in 4 children in our nation are experiencing food scarcity due to family economic limitations. Given that women are now 50% of the labor force, and that 80 percent of women have kids by the time they are 44 years old, cutting down the wage gap would go a long, long way toward helping the economic security of our country's children and families.

Here are a few cold hard facts to fire up your engines:

- The average woman loses $700,000 in pay due to gender discrimination in her lifetime. For women of color, this number can be even higher.
- Mothers are particularly hard-hit by the wage gap. Moms have an increased wage hit and make only 73 cents to every dollar that men make, while single mothers make even less at about 60 cents to every dollar that men make.
- Given equal resumes and job experiences mothers are offered $11,000 lower starting salaries than non-mothers. Interestingly, fathers are offered higher starting salaries thank non-fathers.

Fired up yet? I am.

$700,000 would go a long way--especially considering how tough it is for many families to make ends meet during this economic downturn.

Speaking of help: Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (which passed the House and is stalled in the Senate) would help narrow the wage gap by giving the nearly 47-year-old Equal Pay Act a much-needed update. It's a comprehensive bill that would:

- Create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law;

- Empower women to negotiate for equal pay;

- Strengthen federal outreach, education and enforcement efforts;

- Deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who ask about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages.

While passing the Paycheck Fairness Act won't entirely solve the issue of unequal pay for equal work, it's an important step forward that it's long past time to take.

You know it, I know it, and our Senators need to know it: We're tired of unequal pay for equal work. And, in these tough economic times pay equity is even more critical, not simply to family economic security, but also to the nation's economic recovery. (MomsRising is now collecting letters to deliver to the Senate on this matter: You can send one in here)

It's time for our nation to start stepping forward.

I look forward to the day when I eat toast and jam with my daughter and celebrate the demise of Equal Pay Day because it's no longer needed. As my daughter puts it, "All humans should get the same pay for the same work." Yeah, what she said.