Equal Pay Day Highlights Need for Change / by marilyn salenger

April 12, 2016 is Equal Pay Day, a date that marks how far into the year women on average have to work to catch up with men's earnings from the previous year. It's not a holiday that gives you time off from work, but one that gives you the opportunity to think about work and the pay inequities that still exist between men and women. 

For anyone with daughters ... or mothers ... or sisters ... or grandmothers, the time has come to end to pay inequality based on gender and seriously look at it's implications for today and all of our tomorrows. Whether it's paying off student debt as a young to middle age woman, raising children as a single or married mom, or retirement for those who reach that age, the money we as women aren't making adds up. 

53 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, it is an outrageous fact that most women in our country are not paid equally, making 79 cents for every dollar men are paid. Too many employers have been allowed to turn their backs for too long on the following historic law : 

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section [section 206 of title 29 of the United States Code] shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on job.

Pay discrimination has now morphed into what is known as the Gender Pay Gap. According to the National Women's Law Center, if we don’t act to change the wage gap, a woman starting out today stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of her career, undercutting her ability to provide for herself, her family, as well as her retirement security. The Center estimates based on today’s wage gap, women would lose $430,480 over the course of a 40-year career. For Hispanic or Latina women the career losses increase to $1,007,080, and for African American women the losses are $877,480. The ramifications of these numbers are staggering.

And the Gender Pay Gap ages right along with us. A recent study released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), shows that while men and women may start off their work years close in pay, after women reach 35 the gap begins to increase. Median earnings typically become 76-81 percent of what men are paid. Here's what will surprise many looking for solutions. The study shows that "education is not an effective pay gap solution". At every level of academic achievement, women's median earnings are shown to be less than men's.

There are some remedies in the making, but only if there is strong and continued political support. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has proposed a new rule that will require employers to disclose pay by gender and race, and President Obama signed an Executive Action to work in tandem with the EEOC's rule. There is once again a renewed call for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act that would amend the Equal Pay Act closing some of its loopholes, prohibiting retaliation for wage disclosure and strengthening penalties for equal pay violations. All important moves in the right direction.

Pay inequity has become a key political issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, but the 'haves' and 'have nots' don't fall so neatly into blue collars or white collars. The gender of those filling the collars must be looked at with equal scrutiny coupled with pledges of action that will be kept in years to come.