The average woman in the US continues to make 77 cents to the dollar, which means the gap hasn’t narrowed all that much since 1963, when women made just 59 cents. The pay gap varies considerably by race: Black women only make 64 cents to every dollar a white man makes. For Latina women, it’s 54 cents. #Withoutthewagegap, the average woman would make $431,000 more over the course of their career. Enough money to buy a house, put two kids through college, buy more than 21,000 gallons of gas, and feed her family for almost seven years. Or how about pay off all those student loans?
Of course, some people choose to believe that the pay gap isn’t real. The GOP has literally no ideas for closing the gap. Their strategy seems to basically be to call people who worry about pay inequity liars. GOP leaders have called the pay gap “nonsense” and “a bogus issue.”
In fact, while the pay gap involves many different factors over the course of a lifetime, we know quite a bit about where it comes from. And despite conservative claims that it is due entirely to women’s choices, we know that a gap exists independent of factors like education, job choice, and career path – and is at least partially due to straight-up discrimination. (Also, we know that even choices are not made in a vacuum.) And again contrary to conservative myths, we know that existing laws are inadequate in fighting pay discrimination.
One important factor that drives the pay gap is that women don’t tend to know how much their coworkers are earning. That’s why President Obama is signing an executive order today prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. He’s also instructing the Department of Labor to start collecting data on how much the contractors pay their employees by sex and race. Tonight, Congress will yet again take up the Paycheck Fairness Act that would help end that pay secrecy for the rest of us non-federal employees. The GOP, which calls the Act “a desperate political ploy,” will probably block it.
Since women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers, it’s estimated that raising the federal minimum wage to from $7.25 $10.10 could close the wage gap by five percent. Indeed, the pay gap varies a lot from state to state (check out this interactive map to see how yours is doing), and states with the narrowest pay gaps tend to have higher minimum wages. President Obama recently signed an executive order to increase the minimum for federal employees and has called on Congress to raise the wage for all workers. They likely will not.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.