Paycheck Fairness for Generation NextOctober 29, 2010
This is the fourth post in a five-part series debunking the myths surrounding the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The persistence of the gender pay gap struck a foul chord with me around the time I entered high school. I was always brought up to believe that women could be anything and that their work would be valued. I still hold on to that ideal, but it has not fully come to fruition.
In my cozy, Midwestern high school, my female classmates seemed largely apathetic to these concerns. Discrimination was something we read about in American history class, albeit briefly. It was not something we expected to experience in the modern-day “real” world.
Apathy precludes reform; if a problem is not understood or acknowledged, it is hard to fix. That is why I’ve been encouraged by the new level of energy about fair pay that I see among my university friends. Different people have different priorities but, on the whole, my peers seem concerned with the cumulative effect the pay gap will have on our lifetime earnings.
MYTH: The gender pay gap is a relic of the past.
FACT: The gender pay gap affects all women, right now.
AAUW’s 2007 report Behind the Pay Gap found that women already earn 5 percent less than men do just one year out of college, controlling for factors known to affect earnings such as education, training, parenthood, and hours worked. The gap widens to 12 percent just a decade out of college, even when men and women have the same major and occupation. The gap these college-educated women experience is even worse than the gap for women overall.
However, women suffer from the pay gap at all levels of education. Over the course of their lives, young women today stand to lose from $300,000 to $1 million over the course of a 40-year career, depending upon education, occupation, and location. This shortfall has serious ramifications for women’s retirement security, since women tend to live longer than men but have fewer resources.
The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3772) addresses the wage gap for young women in two crucial ways. Section five of the bill provides funding for salary-negotiation skills training, which would help young women learn about and assert their worth when considering salary and benefits packages.
Sections six, eight, and nine of the bill would empower the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to analyze its current data collection activities and make new recommendations for those efforts. The bill would also restore the Department of Labor’s ability to gather data from federal contractors, which would potentially uncover red flags and provide technical assistance to employers to help them implement best practices and end pay disparities. By increasing understanding and awareness of the problem, the bill would help lessen the effect of the pay gap on young women.
This post was written by Public Policy Fellow Emily Pfefer.