1 Happy Equal Pay Day! | The Billfold

Happy Equal Pay Day!

Today is not a day to celebrate equal pay between the genders, as that does not exist. By “equal pay day” we (we?) mean, Happy This is How Many Extra Days Women Would Have To Work To Make As Much As Men Did In 2013 Day. Ladies, we are done working for 2013 now, hypothetically! And boy am I tired.

As you may have heard, women earn on average 77 cents out of every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Here are some more SAD FACTS, courtesy of the National Women’s Law Center, who is covering the pay gap all week.

- For women of color, the pay gap is even wider: African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

- The wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among non-union workers.

- Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. More than three-quarters of women earning the minimum wage are 20 or older, and do not have a spouse’s income to rely on.

- 70% of restaurant servers (the largest group of tipped minimum wage worker) are women – and their poverty rate is nearly 3 times higher than the rate for the workforce as a whole.

It’s not all bad news, though. As Politico reports, President Obama is signing two relevant and promising executive orders into law today:

One of the new executive orders on Tuesday, Equal Pay Day, will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries — a move one White House official called “a critical tool to encourage pay transparency.”

Obama will also sign a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report salary summary data to the government, including sex and race breakdowns. The hope, according to the White House, is that this will encourage other employers to submit data voluntarily, enabling more targeted government enforcement.

Meanwhile, we wait for the Senate to vote on the historically-doomed Paycheck Fairness Act.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


10 Comments / Post A Comment

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

Are we going to talk about the race inequality part of this as well? *ducks head*

Kathy Shaidle (#6,387)

Wow, thank God Obama is signing more executive orders instead of doing that boring old fashioned thing where Congress has to actually write laws and debate them and vote on them and stuff.

Also? There’s a pay gap at the White House:


And it is there for the same reason it exists in the wider world:

Because women typically get non STEP degrees; perform easier and therefore lower paid jobs; will only work part time or intermittently because they focus more on child care; won’t put in the extra hours/sacrifices needed to really get ahead; turn down promotions that will demand they take time away from family; will accept lower pay, period.

“One of the best studies on the wage gap was released in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Labor. It examined more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and concluded that the 23-cent wage gap ‘may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers.’”


samburger (#5,489)

@Kathy Shaidle perform easier and therefore lower paid jobs

Nope nope nope nope. Privilege check, then we’ll try this again!

Perth (#6,253)

@Kathy Shaidle Good points. But I’m sure alot of people would rather ignore what studies like that say and go with their preconceived notions.

Sloane (#675)

The 77 cent figure is thrown around with way too much abandon. A better estimate, based on similar hours worked and similar professions, is that women earn 91 cents for every dollar men earn in similar professions. Not perfect, obviously, but pretty darn close. The 77 cent figure doesn’t take into account factors like women going into lower-paying fields or taking time off for childcare.

(I can’t find the resources, but there’s research that single, childless women make 96 cents for every dollar earned by the male peers. Again, not perfect, but a much less scary statistic than 77%).

Here’s some good info:

readyornot (#816)

@Sloane I agree with you that the apples to apples comparison is more meaningful, but I think the 77 cent figure is worthwhile to discuss because it provides an entree to the different industries, roles, and hour arrangements women make for very particular, gendered reasons.

I really like this Claudia Goldin article on why placing a premium on working a lot of hours or working particular, 9 to 5 hours can lead to the disparity. http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/goldin/files/goldin_aeapress_2014_1.pdf

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@Sloane Part of the problem with this though is that many people believe and would argue that male-dominated work is valued higher than female-dominated work – NOT because the jobs men gravitate to are more difficult – but because of discrimination. It’s pretty hard to compare the relative difficulty of different types of work quantitatively.

So sure, it’s a little reassuring that a woman who chooses not to have children (even though men can have children and will see their earnings typically increase), pursue STEM careers, and stay late at work (even though TIME working has little evidence of being connected to productivity)can make ALMOST as much as the typical man…that still sucks.

nutmeg (#1,383)

@Sloane And how much more money do childless men make than men with children?

readyornot (#816)

@nutmeg No, they make less! Men with children make MORE money than childless men.

Mockingbird (#4,524)

I completely agree that the 77 cents number is just horrible statistics all around, and when you actually break it down so that you control for experience and actual job role, the gap almost disappears.

There have been some interesting subsequent studies that follow women and men who have similar backgrounds starting out in the same career path. I think the most interesting part of the study was seeing what roles men and women were assigned beyond their basic job description. For example, women get asked to help out in primarily traditional female roles/soft skills, e.g. administration/project management/organizing company parties. Men are the first ones tapped to help out on projects that help build tangible skills and help them gain the experience they need to be viable candidates for promotion. And all of this happened even before the women started having children.

So yes, men are working more important jobs and therefore earn better pay. They are working more hours on better projects. They are not wasting their time at the office planning parties and helping out with administration. Yes, men are earning their pay. What the pay gap really indicates is that we need to be a better at getting over implicit sexism so qualified women can be assigned better roles.

And this is just talking about men and women with the same academic background. As a woman with a CS background, I’m not going to go in to how ostracized I was in my college major, the sexual harassment, and how no one wanted to let me do the hard part in group assignments. So when people tell me “oh there need to be more women in STEM fields, its their fault for not pursuing it,” I just want to shout at them because they don’t understand how much you need to love something to put up with being put down like that everyday.

TL;DR Yes, men work longer and at better jobs. Yes, men earn their pay. No, this doesn’t mean that this is an indicator of a meritocracy and their is no sexism in the workplace. Moral: Don’t give all the good jobs to men and crappy/time wasting roles to women and then the wage gap, esp in corporate world, will start to decrease.

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