Equal Pay Day is on April 14th and, with that, it’s important to recognize why this day is so significant in the fight towards gender and racial equity. When we use the term “pay equity,” we are referring to a method of eliminating sex and race discrimination in the wage system. The wage gap is an index that is used to compare women’s earnings to that of men’s, as well as to compare the earnings of minorities to the earnings of white men.
Equal Pay Day is celebrating its 19th anniversary after its 1996 inauguration by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). The primary function of this day is to create awareness of the pay gap between the wages of men and women and across race. Each year, a Tuesday in April is selected to represent this cause. And it isn’t a coincidence that it’s always on a Tuesday. The NCPE chose this day and month because, Census wage figures typically aren’t available until August or September, and Tuesday represents how far into the work week women have to work in order to earn the same pay as men from the week before. This wage gap is even larger for women of color.
The wage gap varies across the United States. It is the lowest in Washington D.C., where, in 2013, women were paid 91% of what men were paid; the wage gap was the largest in Louisiana, where women were paid 66% of what men were paid. Additionally, the wage gap varies across race, with Hispanic women showing the largest gap in earning 54% of what white men are earning.
The benefits of achieving pay equity demonstrate the importance of fighting for it. For example, with pay equity, individuals will be able to become more independent because they will become less reliant on government assistance. Additionally, the Equal Pay Act can help strengthen the economy by increasing the purchasing power of individuals who get the short stick in the wage system, and therefore reinforce competition in the market.
Over the last 23 years, the wage gap has become smaller (by about15%), and as of 2010 women makes about 77% of what men do. This narrowing of the gap has largely been attributed to a decrease in the earnings of men (60% of the change), rather than the increase in the earnings of women (40% of the change).
You can help! Ways to help close the gap are for companies to implement salary audits, for individuals to learn methods to negotiate for fair pay, and for those who influence policy to improve the Equal Pay Act (1963). No matter who or where you are, you can make a difference in contributing to decreasing the wage gap!
For more information about Equal Pay Day, please click here.