By Kate Murphy
Equal pay is a hot-button issue and has its own day on April 4.
Equal Pay Day began in 1996 to raise public awareness about the gap between men’s and women’s wages, and there have been many efforts over the years to mind the pay gap.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law. Then in 1964, the Civil Rights Act expanded protections against discrimination based on race, origin, color, religion or sex.
But the one-two punch of these two laws still didn’t knock out pay inequality in the workplace.
In 2007, Lilly Ledbetter became the face of the equal-pay movement when she brought her wage discrimination case against Goodyear Tire all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2009, then-President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows people to sue 180 days after each pay disparity, rather than only 180 days after the initial paycheck.
Despite steps forward, it’s 2017, and women are still fighting to make as much money as men. The U.S. Census Bureau found that on average, a woman makes 79.6 cents for every dollar a man makes.
That brings us back to Equal Pay Day. April 4 symbolizes how far into the next year a woman must work to earn what a man earned the previous year. For example, if he earned $40,000 in 2016, it would take her until April 4 of this year to earn that same $40,000.
Equal Pay Day is recognized on a Tuesday because that shows how far into the next week women must work to make the same amount men made the previous week, on average.
According to a study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gender wage gap won’t close nationally until 2059. For African-American women, it won’t be until 2124, and for Latino women it won’t be until 2248.
So what’s being done about this?
At the national level, in 2014, the Paycheck Fairness Act was proposed to add more protections to the Equal Pay Act. Then-Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., sponsored the bill and in 2014 said on the Senate floor, “[The bill] deals with this whole issue of retaliation. The Lilly Ledbetter bill did not address employers who are currently able to legally retaliate against workers who share salary information.”
But it has stalled in Congress time and again.
On the campaign trail, women’s equal pay rights were a family affair for the Trumps. Last year at the Republican National Convention, Ivanka Trump said that her father “will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will fight for this, too, right alongside of him.”
In February, Ivanka Trump attended a meeting with her father and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address women in the workforce, specifically entrepreneurs.
President Trump said, “We need policies that help keep women in the workforce.”
So as efforts to close the gender wage gap continue, when it comes to Equal Pay Day and its significance, at least you can say, “Now I get it.”