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© National Committee
on Pay Equity
Next Equal Pay Day: Tuesday, April 4, 2017
About Equal Pay Day
New Pay Equity Bill Introduced

The Pay Equity for All Act (H.R.6030), introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At-Large) on Sept. 14, 2016, amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit employers from seeking or requiring previous wage information or salary history from job applicants.

Gender wage gap again narrows, but remains statistically unchanged

While the gender wage gap has narrowed, it has not changed statistically in the last year, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Sept. 13, 2016.  Based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers in 2015, women now make 79.6 cents for every dollar men make, a change from 78.6 cents the previous year. Women’s earnings in 2015 were $40,742, while men’s were $51,212. Rounding off the figures shows women’s earnings now at 80 percent of men’s, compared to 79 percent last year.

The earnings of women of color increased in actual dollars and in comparison to all men.  African American women’s earnings went from $33,533 to $36,203, rising from 66.6 to 70.6 percent of all men’s earnings. Hispanic women's median earnings rose from $30,293 to $31,109 and from 60.1 to 60.7 percent of all men’s earnings. The biggest increase was in the earnings of Asian American women, going from $46,334 to $48,471 and from 91.9 to 94.6 percent of all men’s earnings.

A 2016 guide to the gender wage gap shows the gap increasing as women earn more.  The loss in lifetime earnings is $530,000 for the average woman and $800,000 for college-educated women. About 30 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap since 1979 was caused by the decline in men’s wages.

The National Committee on Pay Equity's The Wage Gap Over Time shows how little the wage gap has changed in this century.

If we didn't have a wage gap, we wouldn't need this coupon!

Gender Wage Gap?"

The gender wage gap figure used by the National Committee on Pay Equity has been coming under fire as being politically motivated, at best, and downright inaccurate, at worst.  

NCPE’s wage gap figure, showing that women earn 79.6 cents for every dollar men earn, is based on the most recent Census data of the median salaries of all full-time, year-round workers in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), using a different data set and calculating the wage gap based on weekly salaries, shows women earning 82 cents for every dollar men earn. And a multitude of reports and articles have sliced and diced pay data—by occupation, locality, age—to show a variety of gender wage gaps.

The Census data is used by NCPE because it includes bonuses, not included in the BLS data, and its data has been available for a longer period of time than the BLS data. (See for gender wage gap figures since 1960.)  

When The Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler criticized the Census figure on April 9, 2014, he was quickly rebutted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). IWPR has updated its talking points on the gender wage gap, an important statement that validates the 80 cent figure.

NCPE’s gender wage gap figure is an aggregate. It does not show men and women doing the same work or in the same jobs. But it does show changes over time, with progress in narrowing the gap in the 1990s and little change in this century. In The Status of Women in the States: 2015--Employment and Earnings the IWPR projects that if current trends continue, the wage gap will remain until 2058 and won’t close until the next century in some states.

See five myths about America’s gender wage gap based on the report The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States from the McKinsey Global Institute.

Women of Color and the Gender Wage Gap The prospects for closing the gender wage gap for women of color is dim, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.   

A 2016 briefing paper If Current Trends Continue, Hispanic Women Will Wait 232 Years for Equal Pay; Black Women Will Wait 108 Years from IWPR finds that, if current trends continue, Hispanic women will wait 232 years for equal pay. The exceptionally slow pace of progress for Hispanic women is nearly two centuries behind when white women should expect to see equal pay with white men (2056). African American women are not projected see equal pay until 2124. Previous IWPR analysis found that women overall will not see equal pay until 2059. 

IWPR analyzed earnings growth over the last decade and found that progress for Hispanic women has moved backward: between 2004 and 2014, Hispanic women’s real median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work declined by 4.5 percent—nearly three times as much as women’s earnings overall (1.6 percent): Hispanic Women Are Among Those Women Who Saw the Largest Declines in Wages over the Last Decade. These trends varied widely by state, with only four states—California, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming—and the District of Columbia seeing wage increases among Hispanic women.

A 2016 report from the Economic Policy Institute, Black-white wage gaps expand with rising wage inequality, also found rising wage gaps between African American and white workers.

Wage Gap Research 

Studies that examine the prevailing gender wage gap find underlying social attitudes and no easy fixes:

$ In “The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations,” January 2016, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn found that the largest factor in the persistent wage gap is the dearth of women in specific jobs and industries, but they also found that “Current research continues to find evidence of a motherhood penalty for women and of a marriage premium for men.” The researchers note that discrimination, too, can play a role. When it comes to hiring and promotions, concerns that women will (or should) spend more time away from the office, or will somehow underperform can create a labor market in which it’s difficult for women to achieve to the most advanced and highly paid positions.

$ The March 2016 report from Third Way, “A Dollar Short: What’s Holding Women Back from Equal Pay?” examines the pay gap through hourly wages, age differences, occupational categories, and evidence of lingering bias, and shows that women’s work is not valued as highly as men’s. The bottom line: “Achieving gender pay parity will require both determination and creativity among policymakers, employers, workers, and educators alike.”

$ See New York Times, March 18, 2016 for an overall view of recent research.

New Reports

Gender Pay Inequality: Consequences for Women, Families and the Economy, from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress concludes:

“The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was a monumental step for addressing gender-based discrimination in the workplace by mandating equal pay for equal work. But gender discrimination in the workplace still exists, in both explicit and subtle forms. Despite progress on narrowing the gender pay gap since the 1960s, women still earn less than $4 for every $5 earned by men. Since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, there has been a dramatic shift in women’s roles in the labor force and as their family’s breadwinner. Yet workplace policies have not kept pace, and many women are forced to sacrifice their career to care for their family. This reality depresses women’s earnings, contributing to gender pay inequality and pushing some women into poverty. Unless something changes, the gender pay gap will not be closed for at least 43 years. Women and their families cannot afford to wait that long. Strengthening anti-discrimination laws and modernizing outdated workplace policies to reflect 21st century realities would help women to reach their full economic potential and could significantly shrink the gender pay gap. This would have enormous benefits for women, their families and the economy.”

Gender in the Workplace: Now, and in 2020 from Bridge, a Utah-based corporate learning management system, shows:

While men and women want gender pay inequity to be corrected, they differ widely in their perceptions of it. According to the findings, more than twice as many women as men think men are paid more than women for the same work (68 percent vs. 32 percent, respectively), while 64 percent of men vs. 36 percent of women think women are paid more for the same work; it concludes “This study shows the need for continued dialogue and improvement in the quality and methods of corporate gender education programs throughout the nation.”

As Federal Legislation Stalls, Action in the States

While action on federal equal pay/pay equity laws has stalled in Congress, activity has blossomed in the states, with more than 30 having recently introduced, or expected to introduce soon, such legislation.

The current model is the California Fair Pay Act, which took effect Jan. 1, 2016, and strengthens the state’s existing equal pay laws by eliminating loopholes that prevent effective enforcement and by empowering employees to discuss their pay without fear of retaliation. The California Fair Pay Act:

  • Ensures that employees performing substantially equivalent work are paid fairly by requiring equal pay for “substantially similar” work and eliminating the outdated “same establishment” requirement
  • Clarifies the employee’s and employer’s burdens of proof under the California Equal Pay Act
  • Prevents reliance on irrelevant and ill-defined “factors other than sex” to justify unfair pay differentials by replacing the “bona fide factor other than sex” catch-all defense with more specific affirmative defenses
  • Ensures that any legitimate, non-sex related factor(s) relied upon are applied reasonably and account for the entire pay differential
  • Discourages pay secrecy by explicitly prohibiting retaliation or discrimination against employees who disclose, discuss, or inquire about their own or co-workers’ wages for the purpose of enforcing their rights under the California Equal Pay Act.

The AAUW tracks state activity and posts state laws that are passed here, with further information about state equal pay laws here.

Equal Pay in 2059

Last year the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated, based on research, that women wouldn’t receive equal pay until 2058. Based on the earnings figures released by the Census Bureau on Sept. 16, 2015, that date has been extended a year. IWPR now estimates that women will not receive equal pay until 2059.

While the gap between men's and women's wages has narrowed gradually over time, it has remained stagnant this century, as this graph from the Census Bureau shows (Total and Full-Time, Year-Round Workers With Earnings by Sex: 1967 to 2011, pdf). This illustrates more than ever the need to strengthen and update the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.



  OFCCP Tackles Wage Discrimination:
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the Department of Labor has issued a 4-page fact sheet "Advancing Equal Pay Enforcement: More Effective and Transparent Procedures for Investigating Pay Discrimination" outlining its recent actions intended to identify and remedy wage discrimination.  

Myth Busting the
Gender Pay Gap

A senior program advisor at the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program details and busts five myths about the gender wage gap.

President Obama Details Efforts
To Help Women Economically

At a White House Forum on Women and the Economy on April 6, 2012, President Obama announced the release of the new report by the White House Council on Women and Girls, "Keeping America's Women Moving Forward," that details the progress the administration has made in initiatives to help women economically. He also acknowledged the continued pay gap, saying, "Overall, a woman with a college degree doing the same work as a man will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less over the course of her career." And in an op-ed last week, he emphasized the importance of fixing that, writing "Closing this pay gap -- ending this pay discrimination -- is about far more than simple fairness, it's about strengthening families, communities and our entire economy."

The White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report: Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace (pdf). The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all. 

The Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau published two brochures to educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations:
>> A Guide to Women's Equal Pay Rights (pdf)
>> An Employer's Guide to Equal Pay (pdf)

Winners of the Equal Pay App Challenge The Department of Labor invited software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications for smart phones and other devices. The apps help provide access to basic information – e.g. typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay.

Polling Data Shows Overwhelming Support
of Paycheck Fairness Act

In a 2010 nationwide poll of registered voters, 84% supported "a new law that would provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace." When poll respondents were told that the "law will also make it harder for employers to justify paying different wages for the same work and ensure that businesses that break the law compensate women fairly," 72% strongly supported such a law. This support was consistent across lines of gender, race, geographic regions, and political parties. See data from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Join the
Fair Pay Campaign to support pay equity legislation

The Fair Pay Campaign is led by the American Association of University Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Legal Momentum, the National Organization for Women, the National Partnership for Women and Families, and the National Women's Law Center, with 250 other local, state, and national groups -- including NCPE -- joining them.

GAO Report on Gender Pay Differences

At a Nov. 3, 2011 press conference, Sen. Bob Casey, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, former JEC chair, discussed the findings of a new GAO report, “Gender Pay Differences: Progress Made, but Women Remain Overrepresented Among Low-wage Workers.” The report about low-wage and less-educated workers shows that even in low-wage jobs women, who make up the majority of low-wage workers, earn less than their male counterparts. NCPE Chair Michele Leber was one of the speakers at the press conference.

Updated January 15, 2017          National Committee on Pay Equity