Equal Pay Day, Nothing New Under the Sun

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Photo courtesy of Forbes.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 24, 2021. Since then, little has changed. Inequality persists, women remain second-class citizens, and the wage gap remains intact. 

Women’s Equal Pay Day marks the day when women earn on average the same as men in the previous year. In other words, for a woman to make what a man earns in 12 months, she must work 15. Or, if we take the example of the typical 9:00 to 5:00 workday, women start working for free at 14:40.

Get the idea?

Even when women have been the fundamental pillar of society; mothers, wives, workers, entrepreneurs, subject to the suppression of patriarchy and the obnubilation of binary machismo, even when we are twenty years into the 21st century, women continue to earn less than men.

And much less if you are a woman of color.

According to figures from The National Women’s Law Center, the wage gap varies considerably depending on a woman’s race and skin color. For every dollar earned by a man of any race in the United States:

  • Asian and Pacific Islander women earn 85 cents for every dollar earned by a man of any race in the United States. 
  • White women earn 79 cents.
  • Mothers earn 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers
  • Black women earn 63 cents
  • Native American women are paid 60 cents
  • Latina women get paid 55 cents
Lifetime Losses Equal Pay Day BeLatina Latinx
Photo: http://www.equalpaytoday.org/

These figures further argue the need to observe Women’s History Month in a different light, far from celebration.

“This day marks the extra time it takes an average woman in the United States to earn the same pay that their male counterparts made the previous calendar year,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman for the House Oversight Committee, told USA TODAY.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, we saw how women disproportionately shouldered the burden of care. Far too many women go without access to paid leave and affordable child care options. As a result, many are forced to decide between losing income or caring for their family – and many have lost their jobs entirely,” Maloney said before holding a hearing to examine the pay gap.

Last year, Maloney invited professionals such as U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star, Megan Rapinoe, to testify and speak about her own experience within the sports industry.

Along with her teammates, Rapinoe sued U.S. Soccer for discrimination in March 2019, alleging that the federation had violated both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by subjecting the players to unequal working conditions.

As USA Today explained, they were required to play national matches on artificial turf fields, which is harder on a player’s body than natural grass, when U.S. men did not, they alleged. The USWNTs also took more commercial flights and stayed in hotels that were not as nice as the U.S. men’s.

However, the U.S. women’s team is far more successful than the men’s team. The U.S. women won their second consecutive World Cup title in 2019 and fourth overall and have been the No. 1 team in the world for most of the last decade.

“We are told in this country that if you just work hard and continue to achieve – you will be rewarded fairly. It’s the promise of the American dream. But that promise isn’t for everyone,” Rapinoe said in her opening statement.

Women, women of color, mothers, single mothers… the future of women’s employment in the United States appears to be stagnant and resistant to change.

According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, the wage gap between men and women is not only complex and nuanced but also stubborn. Without comprehensive, up-to-date wage reform, the gender wage gap has only narrowed by 4 cents in more than a decade. At the current rate, it is estimated that women will not reach wage parity with men until 2059.