Wednesday, 11 January 2012 19:29

News | Equal Pay For Equal Work: Can We Afford to Wait?

Written by Aisha
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January 11, 2012

Imagine this scenario. You have a great career and you are a star employee. You are talented, a problem solver and go out of your way to help co-workers. You do your job and make it all look easy. Despite your dedication, one day a new person is hired. They have the same education, experience, and skills that you have. There is only one difference: he gets paid more. In spite of all the progress our nation has made in civil rights over the past fifty years, men still get paid more than women for no other reason than gender. Now is the time to change that.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, a long overdue amendment to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, (S. 182) was introduced by Congress in 2011 with the support of President Obama, who in a statement called the legislation “ a common-sense bill that will help ensure that men and women who do equal work receive the equal pay that they and their families deserve.” Nearly fifty years ago, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 passed, promising that men and women would receive equal pay for equal work. However, the wage gap continues despite women’s increased education, greater level of experience, and less time spent raising children. When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, women earned, on average, 60 cents for every dollar earned by men. In the forty-eight years that have passed, the pay gap has closed by less than 20 cents. In 2010, women earned 77 cents on every dollar earned by men. Women of color fared even worse--African American women earned only 67 cents, and Latinas just 58. Seventy-seven cents on the dollar is not fair. Now is the time to take action to close the pay gap.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes, strengthen business incentives to end pay discrimination, prohibit retaliation against workers who share wage information, and bring the Equal Pay Act in line with other civil rights laws. Passing this act does not just affect women, it affects everyone. More families are depending on women as breadwinners. The share of couples that both work rose to 66 percent in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The number of women who were the only working spouse also rose, with an estimated 4 million families depending on mom to bring home the bacon. The number of dads who were the only working spouse dropped, and the number of stay-at-home dads rose higher.

The wage gap has long-term effects on the economic security of women and families. In 2009 a typical college educated woman earned $36,278/year for fulltime work, while a comparable educated man earned $47,127- a difference of $10,849. This amount of money can be a great help to a family struggling during a recession. With $10,849, you could buy a year's worth of groceries ($3,210), pay for a semester of college tuition ($6,548), pay three months of rent and utilities ($2,265) six months of health insurance ($1,697), or cover six months on a student loan ($1,602).

The current economic crisis is heavily affecting families, and the latest data shows that gender roles are becoming more flexible and egalitarian. Shouldn’t pay reflect this shift? The answer is a resounding yes. We can’t afford to wait another fifty years for paycheck equality. The future of our economy and the well-being of our families depend on it. When women are paid fairly, whole families win. It is our civic duty to take action by writing or calling our Senators and Representatives and urging them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 22:09


Aisha Mickens honed her writing skills at PINK magazine writing articles and newsletters that shed light on the lives of modern business women. She is currently working in the public health field and serving as the Program Coordinator for the Jane Fonda Center, which works to promote adolescent reproductive health.

Aisha is an avid runner and dog lover who enjoys experimenting with vegan cooking.

Follow Aisha on Twitter! @amickens

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