Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today: Equal Pay Day 2010

It's April 20, and that means we've come to another Equal Pay Day. So women, "happy" day to you! You've now earned the same amount of wages, from Jan. 1 2009 to April 20 2010, as men earned from Jan. 1 2009 to Dec. 31 2009. Three months and 20 days later, we're all caught up!

I don't want to rehash everything I wrote on Equal Pay Day last year (but you're welcome to read it!), so I am going to say this: Isn't it more important now -- now that women make up the majority of the workforce and more and more women are becoming the "big" or sole wage earners for their household -- isn't it more important now than ever that women earn equal wages? During this recession we're going through, more men than women lost their jobs. I don't have any evidence at hand to back this up, but don't you think it's possible/probable that more men lost their jobs because they cost more to employ? Women earning less money than men doesn't just affect women. It affects everyone, in all kinds of ways.

So what can you do? Work to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed. It's designed "To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes." It passed the House in 2008, but was never even voted on in the Senate. The good people at the National Women's Law Center and at American Association of University Women both have easy-to-fill-out forms that you can use to send a letter to your representatives. Takes two seconds, so go do it! You can also sign the NWLC's Fair Pay Campaign pledge here. You can also write letters to the editor at the newspaper of your choice, and of course, spread the word all over the Internet.

Some Equal Pay Day facts you can share (via PDF):
In 2007, the gap between men's and women's earnings was 22 cents. The gender wage gap changed by less than one percent from 2006 to 2007 narrowing slightly from 76.9 to 77.8 percent. Median earnings for women of color are generally even lower. In 2007, the earnings for African American women were 68.7 percent of men's earnings; Asian American women's earnings were 89.5 percent of men's earnings, and Latinas earnings were 59 percent of men's.

Over a lifetime of work this loss adds up. On average, the families of working women lose out on $9,575 per year because of the earnings gap [or $10,622, according to the above graphic]. Women may lose $434,000 in income, on average, due to the career wage gap.

Wage disparity persists across all educational levels and in all states. Women with the most education lose the most in earnings. Women with a college degree or higher lose $713,000 over a 40-year period versus a $270,000 loss for women who did not finish high school.
The theme of this year's Blog for Fair Pay Day is "What would it mean if there weren’t a $10,622 wage gap?" Obviously, it could mean countless things: money for health care (preventative, even!), or child care, or a car, or a better living situation, or access to healthier food, or tuition of some kind, or new clothes, and on and on. For me, if that were my wage difference (see below), it could mean something like more money in my savings or retirement account. It could also mean a good portion of a down payment on a house. It could mean that my student loan debt might actually be paid off someday. What would it mean for you?

(Side note: One question I have about equal pay: How does one go about finding out if they are getting paid equally? Say that I suspect one of my male coworkers makes more money than I do. I have no idea how to verify that. Any suggestions?)

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