By Marissa Luna
It’s that time of year again – Equal Pay Day. This day marks how far into 2016 a white woman must work to earn what a white man did in 2015. African American women must work until July and Latina women must work until October (that’s almost a whole year!) to earn what white non-Hispanic men earned last year.
On average, white women working full time, year round are paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to men. It’s even worse for African American women who are paid 64 cents and Latinas who are paid just 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This video from Make it Work sums up how much BS this is pretty well.
When sexist employers don’t pay women equally for the same work as men, it has serious real-life impacts. Just ask Kerri Sleema, a Michigan resident and former employee of a Michigan engineering company, who after five years working at the company found out that all of the men she had been supervising were paid more than her. When she asked her former boss about it, he said that the men she supervised were the breadwinners for their wives and children. The company paid those men more than Kerri not because of their qualifications, experience, or productivity, but because they were men and she was a woman.
This kind of discrimination is still happening to women across the country. It can happen to anyone. Even Oprah faced sexist pay discrimination before. It also happens no matter what industry a woman is working in or her level of education.
Whether it’s health care, education, sales, or management – women are paid less than men. Women with master’s degrees working full time, year round are paid less than men with master’s degrees. Even women with doctoral degrees are paid less than men with master’s degrees. Over the course of a 35-year career, a woman with a college degree will make an average of $1.2 million less than a man with the same level of education. I could pay off all my student loan debt 24 times over with that much money.
When a woman is being paid less than a man for the same work, her employer is effectively saying that she is worth less. That is completely unacceptable and we shouldn’t stand for it. There’s no woman’s discount on rent, electricity, student loan debt, retirement, or any of life’s other necessities. We have to spend the same as men, and we should be paid the same, too.
It’s illegal to pay a woman less, but gender discrimination is still a problem across the country and there’s a lot more we could be doing to ensure that employers aren’t discriminating against women for being women.
Congress can protect workers against sex-based pay discrimination, reward employers that have good pay practices, help train women and girls in salary negotiation, and protect workers who share their pay information with co-workers from retaliation by their employers by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.
We can create workplaces that are more supportive of a working woman’s – and man’s – family and personal responsibilities by ensuring that all workers have access to paid family and medical leave, earned paid sick time, and better access to childcare.
We can’t wait another 5, 10, 15, 20, or 40 years to be paid equally for the same work as our male peers, and we shouldn’t have to.