A Different Kind of Equal Pay Day: COVID-19 Amplifying Inequities

Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, issued this statement in advance of Equal Pay Day, which will be marked on March 31.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a seismic shift in our lives and in the U.S. economy. Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this crisis — as does our promise to work even harder on their behalf. In these challenging times, we are doubling down on our efforts to fight for the economic security of American women and their families, as we have done for the past 140 years.

This is typically the time we mark the annual Equal Pay Day, when women symbolically catch up to men’s average earnings from the previous year. In addition to noting this date (March 31), but this year we are taking a wider view to focus on how the pandemic is amplifying and exacerbating all of the nation’s economic inequities.

The issues we have long been fighting for are now alarmingly urgent: Low-wage workers – 54 percent of whom are women — are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic as they lose jobs by the millions. Those who’ve been working part time — again predominantly women — often don’t have basic employee benefits, including health insurance coverage. The increasing numbers of gig workers also have no benefits.

The nation’s lack of paid sick and family leave is endangering both the physical and economic wellbeing of countless American families. Retired women — who are twice as likely as men to be living at or below the poverty line — are more vulnerable than ever. And the burden of student debt — two-thirds of which is held by women — feels especially onerous for those who are unemployed.

We are confident that the severity of the crisis will eventually lessen, and as it does, society will turn its collective attention to rebuilding the economy. Throughout the coming weeks, months and years, AAUW will accelerate our efforts to address the persistent and underlying inequities that are crucial for a full recovery. Together, we can ensure that we end up with a better, more economically secure world for women, their families and all of society.”

Kim Churches is available for interviews. Contact Mary C. Hickey at hickey@aauw.org.