Equal Work ≠ Equal PayJune 10, 2008
For many women at least, that is a fact of life. As students graduate from colleges and universities across the country this spring, I’m sure many questions have entered their minds: Do I really have to get a job … now? I wonder if Mom and Dad will kick me out of the house? When, exactly, will I have to start paying off my student loans? Now what?
One thought that should be high on that list, especially for young women, is, What am I going to get paid? Research released by AAUW in 2007 shows that just one year out of college, women working full time already earn less than their male colleagues earn, even when they work in the same field. Ten years after graduation, the pay gap widens.
Forty-five years ago today, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay men and women differently for the same work. At that time, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today, that number is 77 cents, virtually unchanged since 2001. While strides have been made and the wage gap has narrowed, it is still significant. A concise overview of pay inequity in the United States and the National Committee on Pay Equity’s Wage Gap Over Time provide historical background.
So what can you do about it? Urge your representative to co-sponsor and support the Paycheck Fairness Act. This bill would expand on the original scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, allowing individuals to seek redress for unfair wages, forcing employers to explain wage gaps, and developing training for women and girls on compensation negotiations.
Currently, there are more than 69 million women in the workforce. Wage discrimination hurts not only them but all American families. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 45 years to make “equal pay for equal work” a topic only for the history books.