Today is the anniversary of Equal Pay Day, which marks how many days into the present year that women must work to equal men’s earnings in the previous year. In other words, women must work 15 weeks into 2011, or an extra 600 hours, in order to match what men earn in 2010.
In the United States, women make on the average 77 cents to a man’s dollar, despite women’s greater likelihood of attending college and earning a degree. Since women comprise over half of the workforce and are the primary or co-breadwinners in over 66 percent of families, the wage gap harms not only women, but also families that suffer from lost wages, decreased pensions, and reduced Social Security benefits.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stated, “Almost 50 years after enactment of the Equal Pay Act, equal pay for equal work remains elusive for millions of working women. In fact, over the past 10 years, the pay gap has remained virtually unchanged….The pay gap is even larger for women of color, with black women earning about 70 cents, and Latinas about 60 cents, of every dollar paid to all men.”
Women’s movement groups have been working on the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act for over a dozen years. The Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act and will help women fight wage discrimination. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, stated, “Feminists are determined to pass not only the Paycheck Fairness Act but also the Fair Pay Act that strengthens Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to protect women workers from sex discrimination in hiring, firing, promotion, pay, and harassment on the job.” The gap between men’s and women’s pay is still significant and increases with age.