77 Cents Doesn’t Tell the Whole (Equal Pay) Story

A group of students marching and holding a banner reading, "Equal Pay Now"

Students at Western Oregon University march on Equal Pay Day 2014. Photo provided by AAUW member Joyce Zook.

May 14, 2014


Updated September 22, 2014: The U.S. Census Bureau released the latest wage data last week. A new analysis of the numbers shows that the gender pay gap for Hispanic/Latina women and Asian American has improved by a mere 3 cents each. The numbers below and the Equal Pay Day for Hispanic/Latina women have been updated to reflect this change. The updated analysis also reflects a widened pay gap for American Indian and Alaska Native women and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women, which stood at 60 percent and 66 percent respectively in 2012.

In my former life as a journalist, one of the first rules I learned was to look at a story from every angle. After all, an issue is never one-dimensional. The same is true about the gender pay gap — and AAUW knows this.

We’ve looked at the gender pay gap among women of different races/ethnicities and education levels; in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; between men and women just one year out of college; in different states and congressional districts; and yes, even among NCAA basketball coaches.

Yet despite this in-depth research, some media outlets still have a hard time getting past the widely reported 77 percent statistic. This statistic is the basis for Equal Pay Day, which symbolically represents the day when women’s earnings catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. But an Equal Pay Day based on the 77 cent statistic doesn’t tell the whole story of the gender pay gap.

That’s why we’re joining with other organizations fighting gender pay discrimination to mark a few other Equal Pay Days this year:

  • Thursday, June 12 —The symbolic day when moms’ earnings catch up to fathers’ earnings from the previous year. It takes an extra six months since working mothers typically earn 69 cents for every dollar working fathers earn.
  • Sunday, July 20 — The symbolic day when African American women’s earnings catch up to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. Because non-Hispanic white men are the largest demographic group in the labor force, they are often used to provide a single benchmark when examining the gender pay gap. Compared with white men, African American women typically make 64 cents on the dollar.
  • Wednesday, October 8 — The symbolic day when Hispanic/Latina women’s earnings catch up to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. Yes, you read that right — Latinas have to work 10 months into the year to catch up to what white men made in the previous year! That’s because Latina women typically make 56 cents to the dollar when compared with white, non-Hispanic men.

We know that these three dates alone still do not capture every dimension of the gender pay gap. As AAUW’s research has shown, women of every race/ethnicity experience a gender pay gap compared with white, non-Hispanic men: American Indian and Alaska Native women (59 percent); Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women (65 percent); white, non-Hispanic women (78 percent); and Asian American women (90 percent).

Moreover, women with disabilities working full time, year round typically earn 67 percent of what men without disabilities earn and 82.5 percent of what men with disabilities earn. Data on sexual orientation and gender identity is harder to come by, but studies have found that lesbian workers earn less than heterosexual and gay men, and transgender women experience a significant drop in earnings after a gender transition.

The point of these statistics is not to get you down; rather, we need to understand that the gender pay gap is a multi-faceted problem in need of a multi-faceted solution. Part of that solution is raising awareness about gender pay discrimination and advocating for legislation to end it — and the upcoming Equal Pay Days are excellent opportunities for action.

Check out the following resources to help you mark one, two, or all of these Equal Pay Days:



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Fight for Fair Pay

Changing the pay gap begins with you.

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7 Women Shortchanged: Personal Stories of the Gender Pay Gap

I left the employer who underpaid me long ago, but the damage done by the thousands of dollars I lost to the gender pay gap sticks with me.

Deborah Swerdlow By:   |   May 14, 2014


  1. […] of intersectional theory: women earn around 80 percent of the average male income (WGEA 2013), however the gap widens significantly when we look at women of colour and women with disabilities (Swerdlow 2014). This simple example […]

  2. […] 1. Latinas’ Equal Pay Day has moved up to Wednesday, October 8 […]

  3. […] male dollar but what about the fact African-American women and Latina women make and 64 and 53 cents respectively? Gender politics is intersectional politics and the only ad of campaign season […]

  4. […] for the time she was underpaid. Her experience is shared by mothers nationwide. It takes almost an extra six months — or until June 12 in 2014 — for working mothers’ wages to catch up with working fathers’ […]

  5. Avatar Ben Torson says:

    Even at the top-management level of America largest corporations the “War on Women” is a severe reality of the U.S. business environment: See for instance the recent WSJ survey: “List of 200 highest-paid CEOs contains only 10 women” or the 5% …

    For comparison “Libyan Women Will Have Only 10% Representation in Government Assembly” http://bulletinoftheoppressionofwomen.com/2012/01/10/libyan-women-50-of-the-population-but-will-have-only-10-representation-in-the-government-assembly/

    Read more about an inequality issue: “U. S. Labor Force Structured by Occupation, Race, Gender and http://opinions101.com/2014/06/03/u-s-labor-force-structured-by-race/

  6. […] for the time she was underpaid. Her experience is shared by mothers nationwide. It takes almost an extra six months — or until June 12 in 2014 — for working mothers’ wages to catch up with working fathers’ […]

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