Starting from 77 Cents!?!

September 11, 2012

Tomorrow, we’ll learn from the U.S. Census Bureau if there’s been any change in the gender pay gap. Currently, the gap stands at 23 cents, which means that the average woman makes 77 cents for every dollar earned by the average man. It’s important to point out that the numbers are worse for African American and Latina women.

At AAUW, we are addressing the problem from various angles, from our public policy work to our programming. AAUW has offered $tart $mart salary negotiation workshops since 2009. We are helping to close the pay gap by arming young women — and some men — with real-world information about salary negotiation. In fact, we are holding a training today at Colby College in Maine, and we have four more sessions scheduled for September in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and Colorado. To date, we have been to 176 campuses and served more than 7,000 students.

“I didn’t know about the wage gap before I took this workshop, but now I’ll try my best to get paid what I deserve to be paid.”
— $tart $mart participant, Mount San Jacinto College

That’s my hope for women across the country. The wage gap adds up. In a lifetime, the lost earnings can amount to $1 million. We must do all we can to get a fair salary in the first place. Additionally, we must push to strengthen equal pay laws to encourage workplace fairness. As one writer from The Crimson, Harvard University’s student newspaper, so aptly said, “That Harvard diploma may not be quite enough.” The article was about the 2007 AAUW report Behind the Pay Gap, which showed that just one year out of college, women working full time already earn 5 percent less than their male colleagues — even when they work in the same field with the same education and lifestyle factors. Ten years out of college, the gap grows to 12 percent. The wage gap is real, and as economist Heather Boushey points out, for too many women, it starts the minute they throw their graduation caps in the air.

Help combat the wage gap by requesting a $tart $mart workshop in your area.

Kate Farrar By:   |   September 11, 2012


  1. Avatar Christy H says:

    Out of curiosity is there some “gap” at which the AAUW would no longer consider this a priority for the organization? For example, if the gap was around 5% across the board. Assuming that there are some margins on which women have different preferences than men, we should not expect that there would ever be exactly equal results.

    • Avatar KB says:

      The gender pay gap will always be a priority for women until it’s been eradicated. No gap is acceptable, no matter how big or small it may seem. Just do the math because the money missing from women’s paychecks really starts to add up. A Georgetown University study ( found that college-educated women lose out on about half a million dollars over a lifetime due to the pay gap. Pay equity is crucial for women, our families, and the economy.

      • Avatar Christy H says:


        Thank you for your response. I’m not sure if you speak for AAUW or just yourself but there are some fundamental problems with the position you hold. First, all life (and funding decisions) require tradeoffs. It would be a shame if AAUW spent endless amounts of money trying to achieve an unrealistic and narrow goal at the expense of other causes where that money could have greater effect. For example, if we get to a point where women throughout their careers are making +/- 5 cents to a similarly matched man’s dollar (and similarly matched is very important), I would rather AAUW’s donations and effort be focused on causes where more progress needs to be made.

        But more importantly, some “pay gaps” are the result of women’s decisions and those decisions should be respected even if they result in lower life time earnings. Lifetime earnings is not a true measure of a woman’s value and should not be mistaken for one.


  2. Avatar onlyubj says:

    Christi uses the word, “unfortunate”…for women in my situation Senior, Single/divorced and Black…it’s actually near life-threatening!!! At least the life as we knew it prior to this serious and unyielding recession! Home forclosed and or sold due to lack of work or live-able wage, equity from the sale of the house and /or retirement annuities gone trying to outlast this unyielding recesson, etc. I hear and live the stories every day and the facts are depressing!! HELP, where and when is the relief going to come!!!!!

  3. Avatar christiannecorbett says:


    We agree with pretty much everything in the fact check piece. It’s true that the Obama ad was not correct in saying that women earn 77% of what men earn “for the exact same work”. The 77 cent number refers to women’s median earnings compared to men’s median earnings for full-time, year-round work.

    Even though the 77% number is not necessarily for “the exact same work”, it still provides very important information and points to significant disparities in our society. The typical woman working full time, year round earns only 77% of the typical man working full time, year round. That’s a big deal, and it’s unfortunate.

    In 2007, AAUW published Behind the Pay Gap – – which compared earnings for men and women one and ten years after college graduation, controlling for factors known to affect earnings like education, occupation, work hours, etc. After controlling for all these factors, women still earned 5% less than men one year after graduation and 12% less ten years after graduation.

    Look for an update of that report to be released by AAUW this November.

    Christi Corbett
    AAUW Senior Researcher

  4. Avatar Cathy Luck says:

    On I read an interesting evaluation of this fact. How do you respond to it? Thanks for checking….

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