Why are men and women still not paid equally?

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What’s happening?Equal Pay Day fell on April 2 in 2019 and each year marks how long into the new year it took before working women earned as much as men made in the prior calendar year prior. In this case – three extra months. While there’s been progress closing the gap in the form of new policies by companies and state laws regarding salary questions, workplace inequities like promotion disparities, sexual harassment and implicit bias persist. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, women earn about 80 cents compared to every dollar a man earns.

Why the debate? A recent survey found that 46 percent of men believe the pay gap is “made up to serve a political purpose” rather than being a “legitimate issue.” The same study found that overall 62 percent of Americans believe men make more money than women for similar work. These findings highlight the differences in perception.

Equal Pay Day also shows the implications of a salary gap over time. A woman just starting out would lose more than $400,000 over a 40-year career, according to a new study by the National Women’s Law Center. The pay gap highlights the issue of taking time off to care for children or family members. Taking that into account, the pay disparity is even greater, according a 2018 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

What’s next? Some companies are taking a stand with new corporate pledges. For example, nutrition bar maker Luna Bar says it will pay to each of the U.S. players who make the Women’s World Cup $31,250, an amount the company says makes up the difference between bonuses for the men’s and women’s national teams.

Some groups are challenging the pay gap by bringing lawsuits. Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team are suing the national federation, claiming the women are not paid the same as their male counterparts. Finally, many politicians, including 2020 presidential candidates, have weighed in about equal pay.


Employees, companies, and nations must all take steps to combat pay inequality.

“We need to shut the door on legacy issues, such as salary history and systemic bias, and open a new door for equal pay. This might cost companies a little money in the short term, but it will pay itself back over and over again in the long run in terms of employee attraction, retention and satisfaction. The solutions are actually easy: We just have to stop talking about what we are going to do and start doing it. … Here are some ways to walk the talk.” — Shelley Zalis, Forbes

Equal Pay Day is based on a faulty narrative.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics data measure median weekly earnings of women and men in full-time wage and salary jobs. In 2018, women earned 81.1 percent of the median weekly earnings of what men made in full-time wage and salary jobs. Thus, the Left claims that women pay a tax for being women. What’s missing is that the statistic does not compare two people in the same job, but instead just overall earnings of women and men. It also does not compare two people making the same labor choices, such as hours worked or education. This Equal Pay Day, women should do something truly empowering: reject the Equal Pay Day narrative.” — Karin Agness Lips, Washington Examiner

Empowerment advice won’t solve the problem.

“Emphasizing individual action denies the fact that the system in which women operate has immense control over the outcome. In organizations, power is assigned by position and authority. As such, any one employee’s power is limited. Power is not simply personal, it’s profoundly social. The key to real, lasting change in women’s status in the workplace is to act collectively. Rather than focusing all our energy on changing our personal behaviors, we can work to create a professional system that benefits all women.” — Nilofer Merchant, Fortune

Prohibit employers from asking about salary history.

“Cincinnati City Council is considering an ordinance that, if passed, would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their salary history during the application process. Of all the potential interventions the City could take to curtail gender pay inequity, the Women’s Fund believes this legislation is the most effective without being too onerous to businesses. … The goal of this legislation is to focus employers on relying on an applicant’s skills and experience, rather than prior salary, when determining an offer of employment." — Meghan Cummings, Cincinnati.com

It’s a matter of race.

The first Equal Pay Day of the year arrived on March 5 for Asian-American Pacific Islander women, denoting that the group earns 85 cents on the dollar relative to men — the smallest pay gap. … Next is the April 2 Equal Pay Day, averaging together the incomes of all racial groups for the 80 cents on the dollar gender wage gap. Equal Pay Day for white women, denoting a slightly larger gap, follows this year on April 19, according to the American Association of University Women. After the April dates, there’s a four-month wait until the next Equal Pay Days roll around — a sign of how severe the pay gap is for black women, Native American women, and Latina women. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day will fall on Aug. 22, followed by Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day on Sept. 23, and Latinas’ Equal Pay Day on Nov. 20.” — Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune

The wealth gap is part of the problem too.

“[I]t’s not just the pay gap that should concern women. It is also the wealth gap. On average, women in the United States own a mere 32 cents to every dollar owned by men. Wealth of course is accumulated in many ways, so while the pay gap matters here, closing the wealth gap requires more than women negotiating higher salaries and receiving larger paychecks. Some see the solution in investment.” — Janice Traflet and Robert E. Wright, Washington Post

Policy change with cultural shift can close the pay gap.

“In other words, a road map has been created, and now it’s our collective turn to take the wheel. Companies can examine hiring practices or commit to doing a pay analysis. Men can step forward to tell their female colleagues what they are paid, and if women believe we are being paid inequitably, we can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner, who will investigate. And each one of us can examine the unconscious biases that persist in our daily lives.” — Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Julie A. Su, Sacramento Bee

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