The Wage Gap is Ridiculous and It’s Time for it to End


April 12, 2016

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post on April 11, 2016. To take action on Equal Pay Day, join AAUW, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women’s Law Center, 9to5 and others in the Fair Pay Coalition for a Twitter storm at 2pm using #EqualPay and #EqualPayDay. You can also tell Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and urge the U.S. Department of Labor to finalize its proposed rules for President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order 

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It’s that time of year again, Equal Pay Day. Congratulations, women! We’ve finally caught up to what men made last calendar year.

No surprise here, but in the recently released report from The National Women’s Law Center on the gender wage gap in the US, women make significantly less than men and the gap is significantly larger for women of color. When you further investigate gaps in pay, being transgender, being an immigrant, being a mom or having a disability takes an even heftier toll on your access to income.

On average, women make approximately 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, a number that’s been relatively unchanged for the past 10 years. And within that average, White and Asian women make significantly more than their Black and Latina counterparts.

If you take a look at the lifetime pay gap, it’s between $365,000 and $1 million depending on race. Can you imagine how many diapers, prescriptions, groceries and utility bills that would pay for?

Sometimes the problem is as clear as a woman getting paid less for the exact same job as a man. Sometimes it’s rooted in women not being offered promotions because of stereotypes, discrimination and favoritism. Sometimes it’s because what’s traditionally considered women’s work isn’t valued as much as what’s seen as men’s work, even if it requires the exact same level of skills, education, responsibility and effort. Other times it’s because of a lack of access to paid leave, paid sick days or other work-family policies. For example, did you know the US is one of only three countries in the world (the others are Papua New Guinea and Suriname) that doesn’t have policies regarding paid maternity leave? It’s ridiculous. This is all to say that there are many reasons why the wage gap exists.

Kris Garcia, a 9to5 member from Colorado, says, “In 2007, I started working at a large chain car parts and service retail store. I was the sole provider for my family of four because my husband had a spinal injury and was unable to work. I started out as a cashier at $8.55 per hour, and was quickly promoted to assistant manager because of my knowledge and skills. I got a raise to $10.50 per hour, still less than $22,000 a year. When the manager position opened up, at $42,000 a year with bonuses and benefits, I quickly applied. I was told that I wasn’t promoted because I am a woman, but I trained every man that cycled through that position.”

“We went to three different food banks every month because we couldn’t afford enough food. I had to send my eight year old son to live with my mom because she could take better care of him than I could. If I had equal access to that promotion, my family wouldn’t have been forced to barely scrape by because my employer refused to promote a woman in a male-dominated industry. My family and the economy lost out on tens of thousands of dollars which could have kept our family together, put enough food on the table, and paid for the medical care we needed.”

It doesn’t matter that women are now becoming more educated than men, we still make less. College may not save us, but organizing will. Incredible strides have been made in recent years because our organization and our allies have provided a clear and consistent message to our leaders, “Women workers deserve equal pay!”

Across the country, 9to5 is on the forefront of organizing for paid family leave and sick days, against employment discrimination, for unionization efforts, and to raise the wage floor. Because there are so many reasons why the wage gap exists, 9to5 and our partners will continue fighting for a multitude of policy solutions.

We’ll do what we can, but everyone can do something. If you’re a working woman, learn more about your rights and take action if you think they’re being violated. If you’re a business owner, take an honest look at your company’s hiring and promotion practices and your leave policies. Correct any disparities and strengthen policies for your workforce, because that strengthens your bottom line too. If you’re an elected official or policymaker, stand with women and enact laws that will help our families thrive and allow us to reach our full potential.

It’s ridiculous that we don’t have equal pay yet. Everyone, let’s do our part to get there!

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