More Than a Paycheck
Women working full time in the U.S. are paid 84% of what men earn. At the current rate of change, we won’t achieve pay equality until 2088.
AAUW’s report, The Simple Truth About the Gender Wage Gap, shows that a gap exists at all levels of work in almost every occupation. There is a gender pay gap in every state. It cuts across all age groups and demographics, widening significantly for women of color. The gap greets a woman as soon as she gets out of college and grows wider throughout her lifetime.
Although women earn 84% of what men are paid, the gender wealth gap is even worse. Women have only 32% of the wealth men have accumulated.
At the current rate of progress, the gender pay gap will not close until 2088. We can’t — and won’t — wait that long.
And it’s not just annual earnings: The pay gap also contributes to the wealth gap. It makes it difficult for women to amass savings, build wealth and achieve economic security. Overall, the average American woman has a net worth of $5,541, less than half of the $12,188 average net worth of a man. In terms of overall wealth, a single woman has only 32 cents for each dollar a single man has. And the wealth gap is even wider for women of color, who have just pennies for every dollar a white male has.
Deeper in Debt
The consequences of this gap affect women throughout their lives. While women outpace men in earning bachelor’s, master’s and advanced degrees, they take on greater debt to pay for their education: Women hold nearly two-thirds of the outstanding student debt in the United States — almost $929 billion as of early-2019. Because of the gender pay gap, women have a harder time repaying loans, meaning women’s debt burden compounds as time goes on.
The pay gap follows women into retirement: As a result of lower lifetime earnings, they receive less in Social Security and pensions. Women collect only 80% of what men collect in Social Security benefits, and just 76% in pensions. In terms of overall retirement income, women have only 70% of what men do. White men over 65 have an average annual income of $44,200, while white women over 65 must get by on $23,100, Black women on $21,900, and Latinas on $14,800.
What can we do?
Fighting for change
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or quick fix. Though the status of women has dramatically improved in recent decades, the lingering inequity is the result of historical, societal and political legacies that persist today. Outdated norms about gender roles run deep in our culture: They affect the paths that girls and women pursue throughout their education; expectations about their roles as mothers and caregivers; laws, policies and legacies that favor men; and flat out discrimination, bias and misconduct that hinder women’s advancement. These all add up to an unacceptable reality that AAUW is fighting to change.
AAUW believes achieving pay equity requires a multi-pronged approach:
- We need strong state and federal laws focused on ensuring equal pay for all American women. See AAUW’s economic security policy agenda.
- Employers need to commit to continuous improvement and to enacting policies and practices that will help put women on par with men. Read more about how equal pay is good for business.
- Women individually need to advocate for themselves: They need to negotiate for the best possible pay and benefits and pursue higher-paying jobs, promotions and leadership opportunities. Learn more about AAUW’s program initiatives aimed at closing the wage, STEM and leadership gaps.
AAUW Work Smart
Learn to negotiate for a new job, raise or promotion with AAUW’s salary negotiation training, Work Smart. Earning more can make the difference in paying off loans, supporting yourself and your family, buying what you want and need, and saving for the future.
Where We Stand: Equal Pay
AAUW believes that pay equity and equal employment opportunity are matters of simple fairness. See which policy measures we support and how you can get involved.
There will be a far richer reward if we secure fair pay. For our children and grandchildren, so that no one will ever again experience the discrimination that I did. Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental American principle.”
There are lots of ways to get involved with AAUW’s work to advance gender equity. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of women and girls.
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