It’s the Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, but I’m Not Quite Ready to CelebrateJune 09, 2009
On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law. Forty-six years later, as I prepare to graduate from college and enter the workforce, there are so many career options and opportunities at my fingertips that a woman in 1963 would not have had access to.
I take the wide breadth of choices for my future for granted and, if I’m being completely honest, I hardly ever stop to consider the work that went into opening the opportunities I enjoy today. I’m confident that I’m just as capable and qualified as a man doing the same job and that I deserve equal pay for equal work. Upon reflection, I recognize that this simple and largely unconscious conviction is also the product of decades of work.
When I consider all the benefits that the Equal Pay Act has accrued, I’m proud and grateful and also immensely frustrated. When President Kennedy signed the bill into law, its supporters expected that women would come to receive, as the name implies, equal pay for equal work. I’m sure that they would be far from satisfied to learn that 46 years and nine presidents later, women working full time still only earn an average of 78 cents to every dollar men earn.
In our 2007 report, Behind the Pay Gap, AAUW controlled for factors that most commonly affect differences in earnings, such as education and training, parenthood, and hours worked, and found that college-educated women still earn less than men. Even when you compare college-educated men and women with the exact same major and occupation, women earn an average of $20,200 less per year. As a soon-to-be college grad, I’m painfully aware of what an extra $20,200 per year could mean for my life.
On this anniversary day, the best way I can think to honor all the work that led to the signing of the Equal Pay Act, is to continue to work until the law actually does what its creators intended it to do. AAUW believes that the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will close some of the loopholes of the Equal Pay Act, strengthen penalties for equal pay violations, and prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about wage practices or disclose their own wages, is a strong step in the right direction.
Learn more about the Paycheck Fairness Act and email your senator to urge him or her to quickly pass the bill. Then send an e-card to a friend or family member urging them to celebrate this anniversary by contacting their senators too.
Written by Stephanie Vertongen, AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations fellow.