Equal Pay Day: How Are Women Doing? (Don't Ask)

BlogHer Original Post

Now that the much-ado-about-nothing Mommy Wars are over, let’s talk about what’s really important.

Money.

Today, in case you’ve been too busy trying to earn it, or scouring the bottom of your purse for spare change, is Equal Pay Day. Hooray! This is the yearly holiday when we get to assess the gap between what women earn for doing the same job as men, and whether it’s shrinking as fast as Mitt Romney’s poll numbers with women or stagnating like pond scum. Fun! Only it’s not really a holiday since we don’t get the day off with pay. Bummer.

The reason the event falls on a Tuesday in April is because it marks how far into the year women must work to earn the same amount as men did the year before. Which isn’t exactly encouraging no matter how you spin it.

This post is going to be stacked with figures, so I hope you’ll bear with me. But this is crucial stuff, especially given that for the first time in history, women are the majority of American workers, with many of us the primary breadwinners at that.

So how are we doing, ladies? I hate to break the bad news, but we’re talking pond scum here. According to a 2012 study by the American Association of University Women, women who work fulltime are making just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns—or 23 percent less. Also, the gap hasn’t budged since 2008. This means that women worked women worked more than 600 hours into 2012 to make, on average, the same wage men earned in 2011.

Put another way, this means women lost nearly $11,000 in take-home pay. Since we’re talking kitchen table issues here, here’s what that extra money would have bought: a year’s supply of groceries, six months of health insurance, and three of months of child care.

Now, if that doesn’t get you pissed off, I don’t know what will.

And for women of color, who are likely to have lower-paying jobs than other groups, the wage gap is even worse : 62 cents for African-American women and 54 cents for Hispanic women. So, all things being fair and equal, if you’re an African American woman you should have taken home $19,575 more than you did. If you’re an Hispanic woman, you got screwed out of a whopping $23,873.

Now if that doesn’t piss you off I don’t know what will.

Which prompts me to wonder: Why don’t we call this activity stealing and throw the perpetrators in jail like we did the bankers and hedge fund managers who tanked the economy? (Oh, I forgot, they didn’t go to jail!)

Lest I get accused of being selective with the facts, women did make some progress. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics the pay gap narrowed or disappeared for postal workers, stock clerks and for younger women. And to think! The Equal Pay Act was passed only a mere 49 years ago!

And I’m very happy to report that after much prevaricating and confusion, Mitt Romney has said that he wouldn’t repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the first bill signed by Obama.

Since I live in the Golden State, with its reputation for being socially and politically ahead of the rest of the nation--Prop. 8 and Ronald Reagan aside—and its refreshingly diverse population, I couldn’t wait to see how women and their families are faring here. I was sure I was going to be pleasantly surprised.

The headline on a report by the The National Partnership for Women and Families said it all:

What Does the Wage Gap Cost California Women Each Year? 1,914 Gallons of Gas, 7 Months of Rent, or Food for 1.2 Years

“New data released for Equal Pay Day tomorrow reveal the significant costs of California’s gender-based wage gap. Women in California are paid just 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap in wages of $8,151. African American women and Latinas in California are paid $7,415 and $21,427 less than all men in the state, respectively. With nearly 1.7 million California households headed by women, the new data show that these gaps harm both families and the state economy

.

So much for California. If you’d like to see how your state stacks up, the National Women’s Law Center has numbers for the other 49 states, too.

I’m going to throw one more statistic at you. I think we probably assume that professional women with their fancy college degrees are not being as adversely affected by the wage gap as women in blue-collar jobs. (Now there’s a word you don’t hear every day!) But, alas, we would be terribly terribly wrong.

As NOW reports:

Recent reports show that the wage gap is wide for women across the board, regardless of educational level. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women with the same education as their male counterparts and doing the same job as men still earn far less. Just one example of the disparity can be found in a new study by the corporate governance firm GMI Ratings, which shows that women chief financial officers are paid an average of 16 percent less than their male counterparts. Overall, by one estimate, the average woman stands to lose about $400,000 over her working lifetime to wage discrimination. Such pay discrimination compels women to seek higher and higher degrees if they hope to begin to match their male peers in pay -- often forcing women into the increasingly costly student loan market.

By now you’re probably really depressed. But I didn’t make you go through all this for nothing. For one, we can badger Congress to pass the languishing, much-GOP-loathed Paycheck Fairness Act , which would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and make it easier for women to challenge unequal pay.

But if you’d like to do something a little more inspirational and fun, over at MomsRising.org, those radical moms are hosting a joint Equal Pay Day blog carnival with the National Women’s Law Center. They’ve got lots of cool ideas about how you can get involved. If you have your own pay gap horror story to share, we’d love to hear it at BlogHer, too!

But let’s hope that we won’t be having the same conversation next year. In the meantime, Happy Equal Pay Day!

equal pay day

Credit Image: © St. Petersburg Times/ZUMApress.com/

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