Equal Pay Day – Why are we Celebrating Today?
The gender pay gap between men and women is still a major issue in the U.S. While there have been improvements in some organizations, we still have a long way to go.
Equal Pay Day is celebrated on March 31st. The date symbolizes how much into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. That’s three additional months. Or, if you look at a typical 9:00-5:00 workday, women start working for free at 2:40 p.m. Yep, we also raised our eyebrow at that fact.
What is Equal Pay Day?
Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to demonstrate the gap between men's and women's wages. Originally, it was called “National Pay Inequity Awareness Day” but changed to Equal Pay Day in 1998.
In the U.S., the average pay gap for women also varies by demographic, reflecting the interplay of ongoing gender and racial inequalities. Which is why there are different dates in the year to recognize how far into the year an average woman of color needs to work to earn what the average man earned the previous year.
Wage gap by demographic and their Equal Pay Day
- Asian-American Women: February 11 — $0.90 (cents)
- Women (all U.S. women): March 31 — $0.82 (cents)
- Black Women: August 13 — $0.62 (cents)
- Native American Women: October 1 — $0.57 (cents)
- Latina Women: October 29 — $0.54 (cents)
Across all racial and ethnic groups, full-time, year-round women's median earnings are around 80% of men's median earnings. We can all agree that this is not cool, right?
Why are we celebrating Equal Pay Day?
Equal Pay Day for all women should be on December 31st, but it's not. Which is why we’re drawing as much attention as possible to this day.
Equal Pay Day offers up a powerful occasion to raise awareness about the gender pay gap. More awareness will translate into more action. While more action (in the right direction) will lead to a fairer world for all women.
Despite the Equal Pay Act, the gender pay gap persists; women are typically paid just 82 cents for every dollar paid to men — and that number has barely budged in a decade. This means that the average woman stands to lose $430,480 over a 40-year career.
And what makes this even more crazy is that 85% of consumer purchasing decisions are made by women. Meaning women are earning less but spending more. How does this seem fair?
This continuous gap in pay means that women have less overall wealth and less money for their future retirement. Do we really want to live in a world where our girlfriends, wives, sisters and mothers are living with less wealth compared to their equal male counterparts? Nope, we sure don’t!
Why equal pay is still an issue
Despite small efforts from some organizations, the pay gap is still very much a statistical fact. Women experience pay gaps at every education level and in nearly every line of work. Education, occupation and caregiving responsibilities can’t explain away the issue.
The reason why it’s still an issue is because there’s still too much talk over action. Organizations are talking about equality, but not taking enough action. And while this may have been a big step in the past, it’s not anymore. Talking is old news. You know the saying ‘actions speak louder than words’, right? Yeah, it’s time for action. In fact, it was time a long time ago.
How can we find a solution to better pay equality?
Both employers and employees need stop talking about what they are going to do and rather start doing it. Like, right now.
Firstly, stop generalizing jobs to certain genders. Designating a job as ‘female’ can automatically diminish its authority, leading to less pay - even among the minority of men in the field. This occupational segregation stems from the formal barriers of work that women faced in the 1960s. These fell away a long time ago. Yet, we are still living with the effects. Why? The same applies to job titles that are traditionally ‘male’ roles. Many roles still come with the stigma that they are ‘for men’, yet you find many female astronauts, police detectives, engineers and construction site managers. We’re moving on with the times, yet the stigma is still hanging on. We need to eliminate such arbitrary gender designations altogether.
There is also a massive need for more transparency. 62% of women report that wage information is kept secret, according to Equal Pay Today. Wanted is a new platform that aims at bringing more transparency into the job market. Ensuring that talent is recognized and appropriately rewarded for their job by making companies commit to a salary before knowing the applicant’s race, gender or religion. Giving all job seekers the power to set their next salary. A salary purely based on their skills and experience, nothing else.
Organizations need to realize that while adhering to equal pay policies may cost more initially, it will pay itself back over and over again in the long run. Particularly in terms of employee attraction, retention and satisfaction.
What can you do as a female employee/job seeker to equalize the pay gap?
Take ownership of your career. The next time that you get asked for your salary expectations, say that you want to get the same compensation as others at your level. Hold the company accountable. Ask them to be transparent in what their other employees are earning. It’s not your job to figure out the salary. It’s there’s.
Share your experiences with fellow employees. Stop speaking in secret about the unfairness of the unequal pay gap. Sharing your experiences among each other will create more awareness of the situation, motivating more people to act.
And for the men reading this, sharing what you are being paid is a major step towards closing the pay gap. Transparency is the key to progress. Otherwise, how will women know what is fair pay? If the company is not being transparent, then the men in the company need to take responsibility.
What can you do as an organization to equalize the pay gap?
Change happens when conscious leaders start doing the right thing. Leaders who live up to their commitments and create metrics to accountability.
Figure out where the inequality is in your organization and fix it. Use your current figures to determine fair pay for the various roles in your organization. Take ownership of this process and address any areas of concern.
Get more women into leadership roles and ensure that their pay is equal to their male counterparts. Women are fully capable of filling higher paying roles.
Make sure your organization is filled with leaders who embody the purpose of equality. Your organization will take a giant step forward when you have leadership with an equality mindset. This will also naturally happen as more women take up space at the leadership level.
When hiring new staff, don’t ask them about their salary history. Stop basing their current salary on their past salaries – this just perpetuates the pay gap as women’s salaries will never match up. It happens too often that a salary is lowered because the employer sees a gap in the job seekers expectations and takes advantage of it. Not only is this unfair, but it is dishonest. Set salaries based on skills and experience needed for the position.
Be transparent about the salaries of your employees. Make salaries common knowledge amongst everyone in your organization, while encouraging an open and honest culture within your organization. This builds trust and aids in employee retention and satisfaction.
We’ve heard all the excuses. And we’re not listening to them anymore. Equal jobs deserve equal pay – it’s as simple as that! Let’s all create more awareness around Equal Pay Day so that one day we have no need to celebrate it.
Credits to picture: Woman vector created by pikisuperstar - www.freepik.com