A Persistent Inequity

Over half a century after pay discrimination became illegal in the United States, a persistent pay gap between men and women continues to hurt our nation’s workers and our national economy.

Women working full time in the U.S. are still paid just 83 cents to every dollar earned by men — and the consequences of this gap affect women throughout their lives. The pay gap even follows women into retirement: As a result of lower lifetime earnings, they receive less in Social Security and pensions. In terms of overall retirement income, women have only 70% of what men do.

Pay equity will remain an AAUW priority until the gap is fully eliminated. We hope this latest edition of The Simple Truth motivates and empowers you to join us in this cause.

Download the full report


Systemic Racism and The Gender Pay Gap

The history of the gender and racial wage gaps is inextricably linked to the history of labor in America. From depriving Black women of wages under slavery and its aftermath, to creating lasting disparities in health, education and opportunity for Native women through land theft, to the legal and cultural limitations on women’s ability to earn money, our nation’s story is replete with discrimination and its consequences.

Read the 2021 Simple Truth Supplement


The Pay Gap Through the Years

Because of the gender pay gap women have less money for a rainy day.

Race and the Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is the result of many factors, including race and ethnicity, disability, access to education and age. As a result, different groups of women experience very different gaps in pay. The gender pay gap is a complex issue that will require robust and inclusive solutions.

Note: The most recent data available for all racial groups was collected in 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the collection of 2020 data. 

Employer practices — such as using prior salary history in setting current pay and prohibiting employees from discussing their wages — compound the problem.

Where you live and what you do can also impact your personal pay gap.

The gender pay gap varies substantially from state to state, due to factors such as:

  • The primary industries in the state and the opportunities they create
  • Demographics such as race/ethnicity, age, and education level
  • Regional differences in attitudes and beliefs about work and gender
  • Differences in the scope and strength of state pay discrimination laws and policies

Explore Your State 


The gender pay gap occurs across almost all occupations and industries:

  • Male-dominated industries tend to have higher wages than industries and occupations made up mostly of female workers;
  • In a comparison of occupations with at least 50,000 men and 50,000 women in 2017, 107 out of 114 had statistically significant gaps in pay that favored men; six occupations had no significant gap; and just one had a gap favoring women.
  • In some occupations, women collectively are receiving billions less than they would with equal pay; for instance, women working as physicians and surgeons are paid $19 billion less annually than if they were paid the same as men in that occupation.

Policy & Legal Action

AAUW believes that pay equity and equal employment opportunity are matters of simple fairness. AAUW is a leader in the fight to end wage discrimination and open doors for women in the workplace. See where we stand on important policy issues, make sure you know your legal rights and how to protect them, and join us in fighting for change by becoming an AAUW Two-Minute Activist.

Take Action

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.