It’s Equal Pay Day! This just in: pay still not equal

Women, like men only cheaper
April 12th is Equal Pay Day, since it symbolizes how far into the year a woman would have to work to catch up to a man’s earning from the previous year.

Women still earn 77 cents to every dollar men earn. And that’s when we pretend race isn’t a factor:

The wage gap is even more substantial when race and gender are considered together, with African-American women making only 62 cents,and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

The highest earners continue to be – *shock* *gasp* – white men. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. So there continues to be a pay gap between white men and men of color as well.

A broad range of organizing and agitating for pay equity has certainly narrowed the wage gap – women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned when the Equal Pay Act became law in 1963. That’s definitely victory, but clearly we’ve got a long way yet to go.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • nazza

    I wish we could talk more about the nuances that make it unfair, since many people know about the pay disparity. Feministing has talked about them, but what I mean is, why can’t the rest of the media break it down for people, so that they know where best to help eliminate the problem.

  • uclabodyimage

    Do you have any data available on what the actual pay gap is? Obviously the real pay gap isn’t 77 cents vs. $1.00. Most of the stats I’ve seen put the pay gap at some where around 90 cents to 98 cents once you control for obvious variables (length of time in job, education, job type), with the effect sometimes reversing for the 20-30 year old white male vs. female group.

    I don’t think that juking the stats way this obviously really helps our cause. Most people know at this point that the “77 cents” figure is made up. Everyone knows that more pressure is put on more men to work more hours and that women on average work fewer hours in more temporary jobs than women, so of course there is going to be a wage gap. We can’t ridicule abstinence only folks or anti-choice for being deceptive with research and statistics, and then turn around and do it ourselves.

    On equal pay day, I think the emphasis should be put on the fact that:

    Female-dominated jobs have historically depressed wages
    and this is a serious problem;

    Initial salary offers to women are lower than men in many fields;

    Women face more challenges with salary negotiation, both in terms of feeling hesitant to speak up and in terms of the reactions of bosses when they do.

    As long as more women take primary responsibility for caretaking and more men take primary roles for breadwinning, there is going to be a pay gap. Being more encouraging of male caretaking along with female breadwinning will help reduce those gaps.

    The actual progress made which is encouraging to current female teens considering careers – giving the message that they’ll only make 77 cents per dollar compared to men is not only false, it’s discouraging.

    • Matthew T. Jameson

      Yes! Thank you for pointing that out, UCLABODYIMAGE. I always get a little antsy when the 77-cent figure comes up, because it is so easy for anti-feminists to attack it and say that, “Well, you just failed to control for X, Y, or Z.” They are, of course, right to do this. It would be much more effective to focus on empirically-demonstrable evidence of bias, rather than a statistical half-truth.

    • Dan L

      This is a nice summary of many of the specific ways women are impacted by the wage gap, and I agree that I think these points are perhaps better to focus on than the somewhat overly broad statistics used to produce the 77 cent statistic. I think there’s confusion even among those people who study these things and I’ve on occasion heard the “for the same word” phrase added to that statistic, when it’s not meant to compare like-work. And there’s often ignored realities, for example when programs are aimed that getting more women to attend college or get advanced degrees, that does nothing for say a 60 year old woman of color who simply didn’t have the opportunities when she was entering the workforce, and there’s no way to retroactively fix that.

      I certainly wish I could do more when I hear young women lamenting entering the workforce, with full knowledge that they statistically won’t be earning what their male counterparts are making, but as you suggested using misleading statistics is discouraging especially for this group. There were a dozen headlines just here on Feministing when the White House report on Women in America came out pointing out it was still 77%, but few times did I see cited that women in the 25-34 year old age group it was 89%, and I don’t believe that’s adjusting for any type of career choice where there’s additional arguments to be made about the careers women choose being undervalued, it appears to use the same methodology as the 77 cent figure but only applied to a subgroup.

  • F.Toth

    I am discouraged by how the comments tend to be about how the gap is “not so bad,” when adjusted for this or that. You are missing the point. Whether it’s because the jobs women are attracted to pay less, or women close to retirement don’t have the advantages a 30 year old woman would have–IT’S STILL a REAL PAY GAP and that is bad.

    By the way, I work in a female dominated profession, and men still make more money in my field and get promoted faster. There is no way to jiggle the stats to make that not true, and frankly, I’m tired of pretending it’s OK.

    • Dan L

      Please don’t misconstrue at least my comment (I won’t speak for others) as suggesting it’s not a real gap or that it’s not a bad thing. The points being made are simply to illustrate that we need to be willing to look deeper at the issue in order to understand its causes so they can be addressed. How can you effectively combat something until you understand it?

      As an example, if one day a report came out that said women were making 100% of what men make, but it didn’t adjust for hours worked, and women were statistically working fewer hours than men, would that be equal pay for equal work? That’s why the 77 cent figure, or moreso the method used to calculate it, should be considered an indicator. Does it indicate there’s still a long way to go? Absolutely. Does it reveal much about how to change it? Not so much.

      And no one is asking you to pretend it’s okay that you’re in a profession where men are being promoted faster and more often than women. I’d love to hear more about that, perhaps you could submit a post on this site if you have the time?

    • uclabodyimage

      I don’t think that we are missing the point. The point is that:

      A) Some part of the wage gap is to be expected based on the current distribution of labor that is common and desired in many heterosexual couples.

      I’ll give you one example. My father has worked in the same job for the past 30 years and as a result has a management position. My mother worked full time 8 years, then stopped working for 7 years straight to raise kids, then worked part time for 7 years, and now has worked full time for the past 8 years.

      Not surprisingly, my dad makes literally twice what my mom makes. Which makes complete sense. But the “wage gap” statistics suggest that it is unfair that my dad makes more, despite the fact that he has worked continuously for 30 years at the same company and despite the fact that my mother preferred to devote more of her time to volunteer activities and child-rearing and working in less stressful jobs.

      This pattern is obviously repeated across millions of couples. Using the “wage gap” statistics to imply that discrimination or lack of opportunity leads the full 23 cent gap is completely false, but it happens all the time.

      My experience talking about the wage gap stats with students is that some women find it angering and motivates them to want to change things. But for others it is discouraging and solidifies their desire to stay out of the workforce. A more nuanced view of the challenges and opportunities can spark a desire for change in both groups.

      B) Despite the fact of A, there are still real wage issues (see the second half of my original post). And as you point out, regardless of the reason for the gap, it does limit women’s financial flexibiliy and stability.

      C) More importantly, though, deceptive use of statistics is more harmful in the long run in my opinion, and something we harshly criticize in the opposition. I don’t see the benefit in taking that same tact.

      • Matthew T. Jameson


  • queerhummingbird

    *women of color …. cheaper than white women*

  • Steven Olson

    I am really glad that some other people have mentioned that that 77% figure is not accounting for anything. It is such a poor statistic for all of the reasons mentioned above, but also that, when just looking at the total average between men and women as it changes in time doesn’t help us understand in what areas we are making improvement and what areas we are not.
    For example, I want to know what the pay gap is between male and female new hires for the same positions with the same education. Preferably, I also want to know that for every job sector. For example, is the pay gap bigger for engineers than it is for doctors? I also want to know about promotion rates, for different industries between men and women. Maybe the starting salary is the same, but 5 years out of school men are being promoted faster and thus the pay gap is because of promotion rates, not initial salary? Perhaps its both? (well, I think it is probably both, however without good statistics I can’t argue that point with any sense of honesty). Another question, if (I think this is true, I vaguely remember seeing stats about this) women are initially paid less for the same job with the same education as men, is it because they are actively being discriminated against by being offered less because they are women, or is it that women are less likely to negotiate for a salary right out of school then men? Both reasons you could chalk up to sexism, but the solution would be different for each case.

    These are just a tiny few examples of why such broad statistics are useless. All they suggest is that there is a problem, but not really what the problem is, and certainly there is no useful information to draw from it on how to make it better.

  • Ryan

    The problem with saying ~20% isn’t the “real pay gap” is two-fold.

    1] Studies that focus only on one profession and control for things like hours worked and productivity still show a big pay gap. In this study of physicians initial contract offers it is ~17%.

    2] Where is the hard data showing that women and family leave have negative economic impacts on their employer? If there was hard data wouldn’t people be screaming it from every rooftop? Wouldn’t every company treat women the same? Wouldn’t there be a mutual fund consisting of the companies with the fewest female employees and worst family leave benefits?

    Expanded, mandatory, paid family leave in CA doesn’t seem to have a depressing economic impact:

    Unless there is hard data showing that women are crappier employees b/c of family leave they don’t deserve to be paid less and we don’t need to control for hours worked and family leave in any study.