Equal Pay Day 2017: A Nationwide View of the Gender Wage Gap

Since I started this blog in December 2012, I have annually written about pay equity during April for Pay Equity Day (201320142015, and 2016).  That day is today. As in past years, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, will be distributing flyers educating the public about the economic inequality in women’s pay.  We’re letting people know that we continue to have a lack of progress in eliminating pay inequity.  Here’s the information we would like the public to know.

April 4, 2017

This date symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.  FYI, This is eight days less than 2016, ten days less than 2015, four days less than 2014, eleven days less than in 2013 and thirteen days less than in 2011 when Ni-Ta-Nee NOW started tracking this date!  Tuesday, April 4, 2017, is the day on which women’s wages overall catch up with men’s earnings from the previous year.  It is also the day when white women’s wages catch up with men’s wages.  But most women of color take much longer to achieve equity.

The Wage Gap

Annual Wage Gap 2017 - Lack of Equal Pay

A Nationwide View of the Gender Wage Gape

The commonly used measure to determine the pay gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women as a whole earned just 8 percent of what men earned in 2015 (AAUW, 2017).  Between 2006 and 2015 the weekly gender wage gap narrowed by just 0.3 percentage points, compared with 6.0 percentage points in the previous ten years (1996 to 2005). At the current rate, it will be 2059 before women achieve wage parity. This lack of progress needs to be overturned!

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 85 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White, non-Hispanic women are next, earning approximately 75 percent of white men’s average income, African-American women earn 63 percent, Pacific Islander women earn 60 percent, Native American women earn 58%, and Hispanic women earn just 54 percent of wages as compared to white men (AAUW, 2017).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $418,800 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career. For Asian-American women, it’s $387,640; for white, non-Hispanic women, it’s $462,000; for African-American women, it’s $657,680, for Native American Women, it’s $789,120, and for Hispanic women, it’s $899,400. (NWLC, 2017).

Differences in the wage gap are due more than just the types of jobs men and women work.  Part of the problem is due to gendered, sex-segregated jobs where women are paid less. This disparity is partly due to the minimum wages often paid to women and for jobs that require the same level of skills, knowledge & abilities but for which women are paid less. Other reasons for this pay gap include the lack of paid sick days and family leave, unfair scheduling practices, and lack of pay transparency protections in these female-dominated occupations (Center for American Progress, 2015).

Wage Gap in Pennsylvania

The pay gap is even worse in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 27th (tied with AR, IL, NE, TX, and WA) among the states (AAUW, 2017). The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year-round in Pennsylvania in 2015 was $40,742 compared to men’s $51,212 or 80% of what a man earns. This disparity results in a wage gap of 20%.

Centre County is part of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District (CD) Women in the 5thCD earned $33,325 compared to the $45,385 that men make or 73.4% of what a man makes. We rank 15 out of 18 in the state in terms of the wage gap.  This disparity results in a wage gap of 26.6%. Philadelphia’s 1st CD fares better than the rest of the state, with a difference of just 11.3% (AAUW, 2017).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $430,480 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career. For Asian-American women, it’s $387,640; for white, non-Hispanic women, it’s $462,000; for African-Americans, it’s $657,680; for Native American women, it’s $789,120; & for Hispanic women, it’s $899,400 (NWLC, 2017).

What Can You Or I Do About this Inequity?

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you see or think that you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union at your place of work, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information through the Job Accommodations Network, a free service of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser. All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the PA Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg. Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

At the Local Level

You should also check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. You can also file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and family responsibilities across the lifespan). If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 cities and municipalities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination office if you live in another state to determine if your state allows such local ordinances and if such a law exists in your community.

You Can Also Advocate for Changes in the Law

There are bills before Congress and in state legislatures that deal with some of the issues affecting wage inequity.  If you want to advocate at the federal level, you can find your US Representative and your US Senators’ contact information at https://www.congress.gov/members.  To locate the contact information for your state legislators, go to http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ and fill in your mailing address and hit the “locate” button; your legislators’ picture, addresses, and phone and fax numbers can be found when you click on her/his name.  It some cases, this website will also provide a list of bills your legislator has sponsored so that you can see if one or more of them support pay equity.

Here are the issues you for which you should consider advocating.  Since I live in Pennsylvania, I’m listing both Federal and Pennsylvania-specific bills.  For bills specific to your state, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures website to find and go to your state’s website.  You will then be able to search for the bills on pay equity, paycheck fairness, minimum wage, sick leave, etc. to see if there is a bill or law in your state addressing these issues. If not, then contact your legislators/public officials and ask them to sponsor such bills.

 Raise both the regular and the tipped minimum wages.

At the federal level, there is currently one bill addressing this issue.  It is HR 122 — The Original Living Wage Act of 2017. It was introduced by Rep. Al Green (D-TX-9). There are currently seven additional co-sponsors: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD-7), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-5), Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY-8), and Rep. Marc A. Veasey (D-TX-33). For this bill to move, MANY more co-sponsors are needed and your representatives need to hear from you.

In Pennsylvania, there are two bills —SB 12 — Raising the Minimum Wage and Modernizing the Minimum Wage Act & SB 163 —Raising the Tipped Wage Act.

Many states and local communities have either increased the minimum and tipped wages or have bills in the hopper on this issue. According to the Raise the Minimum Wage website, “As a result of Congressional gridlock and growing income inequality, a record number of states are taking action to raise their wage floors above the federal [level]. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have set their minimum wage above $7.25/hour, including two which have raised it to $15 (California and New York). And in several other states, advocates are actively promoting an increase in the wage floor to at least $12.  For more information on these types of bills, check out the Raise the Minimum Wage website for their listing of state-level initiatives.

Pass paid sick leave legislation.

At the federal level, check out HR 1022 and S 362 — the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2017. Note these bills only affect federal employee sick leave. So to create paid sick leave for the rest of us, we’ll need to look to the states and local municipalities for this form of legislation.

In Pennsylvania, check out HB 701 — the Pennsylvania Paid Sick Leave Act and SB 207 — the Employee Paid Sick Leave Act

In some states, this type of legislation can also be enacted at the municipal level.  Currently, four states (Connecticut in 2011, California in 2013, Massachusetts in 2014, and Oregon in 2015) and the District of Columbia (2008), as well as 18 cities and communities, have implemented paid sick leave.  These 18 cities (with the year of passage noted) are:

  • California: San Francisco (2006), Oakland (2014), and Emeryville (2015), Los Angeles and San Diego (both in 2016)
  • Maryland: Montgomery County (2015)
  • New Jersey: Jersey City (2013), Newark, Passaic, Paterson, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton (all in 2014), Bloomfield (2015), New Brunswick, Elizabeth, and Plainfield (all in 2016)
  • New York: New York City (2013)
  • Oregon: Portland (2013)
  • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (2015) and Pittsburgh (2015). Note however that Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave ordinance was ruled as invalid by a county-level judge in early 2016 and is currently on appeal to the state’s Supreme Court.
  • Washington: Seattle (2011) and Tacoma (2015)

Create laws that make payment of wages fairer by eliminating pay secrecy rules & pay discrimination.

Types of paycheck fairness rules include limiting occupational requirements to bona fide occupational factors like education, skills, and experience, prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their salaries and denies employers the ability to require employees to sign a contract or waiver prohibiting them from disclosing information about the employee’s wages. The federal bills that have focused on this issue entitled the Paycheck Fairness Act; this bill has yet to be introduced in either the US House or Senate so far this year. The National Women’s Law Center has several good articles on paycheck fairness, including why women need more wage protections and information on how the Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act. Take a look at these articles and then contact your US Senator(s) and your US Representative if you believe they might be willing to take the lead on this bill.  FYI, the past prime sponsors of this bill that are still in Congress are Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3).

Stand up. Fight back.

So, on this Equal Pay Day, get going! Follow the lead of the millions of women and their allies who participated in the Women’s Marches on January 21, 2017.  Stand up! Fight back! Call on your legislators at all levels to work towards pay equity.  Tell your employer/union that you want and expect fair pay.  And reach out to others of like mind. This pull for equal pay will be a long haul effort. But we can eventually make it happen. Let’s do it!.

 

 

 

 

 

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