Equal Pay Day 2018 – What is the Wage Gap and Where Do We Go from Here?
This past Tuesday was Equal Pay Day – the date each year up to which American women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.
We join with the National Women’s Law Center and other organizations in declaring that equal pay is crucial for all women, and that much greater pay disparities for women of color and women with disabilities must be addressed forcefully and intentionally in an ongoing way.
Last year our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly passed a statement of conscience on escalating economic inequality in this country, stating that “our principle of justice, equity and compassion in human relations drives us to work for healthier and more equitable economic systems.” We declared the imperative for a moral economic system that would include equal pay for equal work and elimination of racial, ethnic and gendered wage and wealth gaps.
Little progress has been made in the area of wage gaps as documented by the most recent available numbers. In fact, predictions are that the pay gap is not expected to close until 2119!
According to data provided by the National Women’s Law Center, women of all races who work full time year-round are typically paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to male counterparts. This gap in earnings amounts to $10,086 that women lose each year. Women of all education levels experience a wage gap. Women in nearly every occupation experience a wage gap. Women are paid less for the same work. Women are over-represented in low wage jobs and under-represented in high wage ones. Women’s work (work where women are dominant in a field) is devalued because women do it.
A recent Census Bureau report revealed that the so-called “baby window” following the birth of a first child doubles the pay gap between spouses and, for younger women between 25 and 35, their pay never recovers.
But as New York Times gender editor Jessica Bennett pointed out “the more clear-cut (and stunning) figures come when you segment by race, as compared to white men:
- 54 cents is the amount Latina women make to the white male dollar.
- 57 cents for Native women
- 63 cents for black women
- 79 cents for white women
- 89 cents for Asian women (differentiated by region).
The pay gap for black women means that they would have to work until August 7 of this year to earn what white men earned the previous year. For Latina women, it’s November 1.
Add to this: Transgender women make less after they transition. One study found that their average earnings fell by nearly one-third after transition. Women with disabilities are typically paid 73 cents for every dollar men without disabilities are paid and, compared with their male counterparts with disabilities, this figure is 76 cents.
It will take a focused, multi-pronged effort to achieve equal pay for all women. The National Women’s Law Center urges us to:
- Strengthen our equal pay laws so that women are better able to fight back against pay discrimination.
- Build ladders to better paying jobs for women by removing barriers to entry into male-dominated fields.
- Lift up wages for women in low income jobs by raising the minimum wage and ensuring that tipped workers receive at least the regular minimum wage before tips.
- Increase the availability of high quality, affordable childcare.
- Help prevent and remedy caregiver discrimination and protect workers from pregnancy discrimination.
- Establish fair scheduling practices that allow employees to meet their care-giving and other responsibilities.
- Provide paid family and medical leave.
- Ensure women’s access to affordable reproductive health care.
- Protect workers’ ability to collectively bargain.
The UUWF joins the National Women’s Law Center and other intersectional justice seeking groups in declaring once again this year that:
Every Woman Matters
Every Dollar Matters
Equal Pay Matters