Humans Will Probably Walk on Mars Before Women Get Equal Pay

November 23, 2015

Here are just some of the things we might have before women achieve equal pay: flying cars, long walks on Mars, teleportation, hoverboards, household robots. Womp womp.

Based on two different projections — the pace of change since the 1960s and the pace of change in the past decade — women won’t see equal pay until 2059 or 2276, respectively. That’s because progress in closing the gender pay gap has stalled in recent years. The result? It could be more than 250 years, or nearly three generations, until women get fair pay.

Humans will probably walk on Mars before women achieve equal pay. An image of astronauts on Mars with text about equal pay

In the meantime, the economic damage inflicted by the pay gap will continue to be felt by thousands upon thousands of women across the country — not to mention the families who rely upon them. Because of the pay gap, women are more likely than men to live in poverty, struggle with the burden of student debt, and experience economic insecurity in retirement. The harm caused by pay inequity runs deep, especially given that women make up a record 40 percent of U.S. breadwinners.

Altogether, the gender pay gap costs a typical woman at least $400,000 over the course of her career.

That’s no small chunk of change. According to AAUW’s latest research, women working full time, year round are paid only 79 cents for every dollar men are paid. The pay gap is even worse for mothers and women of color. African American women are typically paid just 63 percent of what white men are paid. Hispanic and Latina women face the largest gap, making 54 percent of white men’s earnings. For these women, it’s arguably more likely that their grandchildren will live with robots or walk on Mars than have fair pay.

There’s a problem when futuristic wish lists become more realistic than the prospect of equity.

The projections for when the gender pay gap will close span as early as 2059 or as late as 2276, because historical trends vary widely. Based on the rate of change in the gender pay gap from the 1960s to now, we could extrapolate and expect to see pay equity in 2059. But this estimate includes substantial progress made in the 1980s and 1990s — likely the effects of the women’s movement — that has since gone unmatched.

Recent trends are significantly more grim. Over the past decade, the pay gap has barely budged, and progress has slowed to a near halt. If we estimate based off the rate of change from 2004 to 2014, it will be another 261 years, or 2276, until women are paid equally to men. Whatever model we examine, the wait is too long.

For ourselves and our children, it’s time to pick up the pace in the fight for fair pay. You can help.

Founded in 1881, AAUW has been studying the gender pay gap since 1894, when we first analyzed the pay of college-educated women. Through the years, we’ve continued to conduct groundbreaking research on pay equity as well as advocate for policy and legislative action to close the pay gap. AAUW members were in the room when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963. More recently, AAUW members worked tirelessly to help pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was signed into law in 2009. It was a start, but the pay gap remains. And as trends show, it’s sticking around — that is, unless we act.

Hoverboard down the sidewalk or get the entire paycheck that you earned? You choose.

Equal pay shouldn’t be a dream for our great, great, great granddaughters. Luckily, there are many things employers, individuals, and governments can do to help speed up the process, including supporting AAUW.

When it comes to policy, we must continue to advocate for strong pay equity legislation, including the long-stalled Paycheck Fairness Act, as well as encourage employers to support flexible work schedules and conduct job audits to ensure fairness. AAUW also educates the public about the harm of the pay gap, and we hold national workshops to empower women to hone their salary negotiation skills. In September, we announced a collaboration with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement to bring AAUW’s Work Smart salary negotiation workshop to half the working women in Boston over the next five years. These efforts are critical elements as we work to close the gender pay gap.

It’s been an uphill battle, but progress has occurred. We’ve made strides since the 1930s, when the federal government actually required that its female workers be paid 25 percent less than male workers in the same jobs. Back then, American women likely felt that the prospect of receiving a paycheck equal to a man’s was the stuff of science fiction. But groups like AAUW have helped lead the charge in policy and cultural shifts. Today, we have the power to make fair pay a reality — if we all take action and chip in.

Buckle up those jet packs. Equal pay, here we come.

Renee Davidson By:   |   November 23, 2015

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