Equal Pay Day Highlights Gender Wage Gap

Apr 12, 2016

Today is Equal Pay Day. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to catch up to what men were paid the year before. That’s based on national figures, but New York and a few other Northeastern states fare better.

Nationally, women who are employed full time, year round are paid, on average, 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. The National Partnership for Women & Families released for Equal Pay Day an analysis of the gender wage gap for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vicki Shabo is the National Partnership’s vice president. She says the study finds that Washington, D.C. came in best in the nation for having the smallest wage gap, at $0.10. New York came in second, with $0.13.

“New York’s wage gap is smaller than the United States,” says Shabo. “In New York, women who work full-time, year round are paid $0.87 for every dollar paid to men, amounting to an annual average median wage gap of about $6,800.”

The study uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Shabo says if the gap in New York were eliminated, each woman who holds a full-time, year-round job in the state could afford to buy food for one more year, pay for mortgage and utilities for three more months, or pay rent for nearly six more months. The study shows that in Connecticut, the wage gap is $0.19; in Massachusetts, $0.18; in New Hampshire $0.24; and in Vermont, $0.16.

Shabo says passing the Paycheck Fairness Act is one pillar for achieving pay equity. The legislation would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, help to break patterns of pay discrimination, and establish stronger workplace protections for women. The bill was introduced by Connecticut Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Shabo also promotes another focus.

“But the other thing that we need to do is create more family-friendly policies in workplaces,” says Shabo.

Policies, she says, such as paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and legislation to raise the minimum wage. New York is ahead of the curve, having just passed legislation for paid family leave and raising the minimum wage.

The Independent Women’s Forum calls itself the group at the forefront of debunking the wage-gap statistic and so-called "War on Women."  IWF officials say Equal Pay Day is the day that liberal feminists, progressive groups and their allies in Washington perpetuate the idea that the economy is a battle between the sexes. IWF released its own report called Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women's Lives and it focuses on job creation, workplace flexibility, and returning resources to individual women. Managing Director Carrie Lukas opposes a federal paid family leave policy.

“Rather than creating a one-size-fits-all compensation system and rules for the impacts of the compensation packages of all workers, we want to try to give people more options,” says Lukas. “And one way this report calls for doing that is to make it easier for people to save to provide for their own periods of leave.”

She suggests that policymakers allow for the creation of personal care accounts to save pre-tax dollars that could be used for family leave.

The National Partnership’s Shabo says equal pay is an issue that affects families and the presidential candidates should be talking more about it.

“If the wage gap were to close, the average family could afford another 1.6 year’s worth of groceries, another seven months of mortgage and utility payments, or 11 more months of rent, or nine more years of birth control,” Shabo says. “So this has real economic consequences and the candidates across the aisle should absolutely be talking about this as a core issue of economic importance for families and for the nation’s economy overall.”

Nationwide, Shabo points out, the gap is larger for African American women and Latinas who are paid 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Meanwhile, MTV's "Look Different" anti-bias campaign unleashed a nationwide protest of the gender pay gap with the creation of a certain tool, as discussed in this video.

“(alarm sounds) That’s why we created the 79 percent work clock. The 79 percent work clock reminds you and your co-workers of a simple fact: after a certain point in time, women aren’t being paid. When a woman hears its chime, she might as well go home.”

And that chime, for the average 9-5 workday, sounds at 3:20 p.m. MTV's campaign unveiled an online hub — www.79percentclock.com — featuring the 79-Percent Calculator to help individuals find the correct time setting for their personal work clocks based on their hours and race.

Another wage gap calculator is being unveiled in Massachusetts, where the treasurer’s office unveiled a new website.