National Consumers League

Equal Pay Day

Sally GreenbergWhat does Equal Pay Day mean in America? It’s a time for reflecting on why women still less than their male counterparts. In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women earned 59 Cents for every dollar earned by men. That number in 2013 has inched up but still lingers at 78 cents. That’s too bad, because women are the sole bread earners in millions of families and the lack of parity in pay hurts them and their children.

What does Equal Pay Day mean in America? It’s a time for reflecting on why women still less than their male counterparts. In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women earned 59 Cents for every dollar earned by men. That number in 2013 has inched up but still lingers at 78 cents. That’s too bad, because women are the sole bread earners in millions of families and the lack of parity in pay hurts them and their children. As the House Minority Leader says, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

The Economic Policy Institute reports that the higher up the economic ladder, the greater the disparity. In 2014 women in the 95th percentile of female earners made 79% of the wages earned by men, while women in the lowest 10th percentile made 91 cents for each $1 earned by men. Not surprising that 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women. What surprised me is that women with college degrees earn 78% of their male counterparts and women with advanced degrees earn 74% of what men make. And in traditionally female occupations, men even make more there! Male registered nurses out-earn female nurses by an average of $5,100 per year. This seems like rank sexism to me, and we could begin to change it with new laws in place.

And yet, in 2010, 2012 and 2014, the leadership in Congress blocked consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which President Obama supported, and NCL and many other groups have campaigned for. That legislation would extend pay-equity rules to federal contractors and update the Equal Pay Act.

Women’s pay equity shouldn’t be a partisan issue. All families, whether Democratic, Republican, Independent or unaffiliated, will benefit when women earn more. This week’s Equal Pay Day is a fine time to raise these issues again – increasing the minimum wage has strong support in red as well as blue states. Equal pay for women should be right behind it.