Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Equal Pay for Equal Work???

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (signed into law 10 June 1963)

On 10 June 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act. 

You can find the act, in full, at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

Here is the law's stated purpose:
(a) The Congress hereby finds that the existence in industries engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce of wage differentials based on sex--
  1. depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;
  2. prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources;
  3. tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;
  4. burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and
  5. constitutes an unfair method of competition.
(b) It is hereby declared to be the policy of this Act, through exercise by Congress of its power to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, to correct the conditions above referred to in such industries.
In 1963, the year this legislation was passed, women earned, on average, 58.9¢ for every $1.00 earned by men. Today, fifty-two years later, the gap remains--on average, women earn about 78.3¢ for every dollar earned by men. Over the course of more than half a century, then, the pay gap has been reduced by less than twenty cents! In other words, women are gaining ground at the rate of about 1/3 of a cent a year (to be more precise, the rate is .373¢ a year).

So, at this rate, it will take 58 years and 2 months for the pay gap to close. At this rate, women will achieve parity in the year 2073!! Can you afford to wait that long? (These are my calculations.)

I am 63 years old--I surely can't wait that long. But here's the really scary thing--my son and his partner are expecting the birth of their first child, a daughter, any day now. This as-yet-unborn little girl will be nearing retirement age before the pay gap closes.

(And, of course, these are just the averages--for Asian-American women, the gap is smaller, with the earnings at 88.5¢; for African American women, the gap is bigger, with the average earnings at 65.4¢; for Native American women, the average earnings are 59.6¢; for Hispanic women, the gap is bigger yet, with the average earnings at 53.8¢ . . . )

For more information, check out The Status of Women in the United States: 2015, Employment and Earnings from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (here) or the AAUW study, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (here). 

The new IWPR study shows the wage gap by state and shows when the gap will close, state by state. The good news: the first state to close the gap is projected to be Florida, in 2038; the last to close the gap will be Wyoming, in 2159. If my soon-to-be-born granddaughter remains in Washington State, where I live and write, the IWPR calculations show she'll achieve wage parity in 2071, two whole years before my projections (above). Woohoo!!!!!

Update, 10 June 2020: For further posts on this issue, click "pay equity" in the labels, below.

Update, 10 June 2022: The AAUW site now makes available only a 2018 edition of The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, along with 2021 updates. (The 2015 edition, to which I've linked, above, is  preserved by and posted on the Earth Science Women's Network.)

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