Women Yesterday and Today 1: The Wage Gap

March is Women's History Month. So I am going to be devoting some of my blog posts this month to a series I'm calling: Women Yesterday and Today. To start off the series, I thought I would highlight a few statistics that are very troubling.

Women are now 50% of the workforce. On average women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. Just one year (!) out of college, women already earn less than their male colleagues earn, even when they work in the same field with the same degree. At ages 66 and older women are twice (!) as likely as men to be poor. It has taken 40 years (!) to begin to close the wage gap by a meager 12 cents.

What is really alarming is just how much the wage gap widens the older women get. One year after graduation, women average 80% of the salary their male counterparts are earning. Ten years later they are earning 69% of the salary of their male counterparts. Even when researchers control for all the known factors that can affect earnings (hours, occupation, parenthood, etc.) their research shows that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained. Over time, this unexplained portion of the pay gap grows larger and larger.

The AAUW has an interactive map HERE where you can hover over any state and find out the wage gap stats closer to home. It is sad to view these stats. Among college grads, women in Texas are earning 70% of what their male counterparts are earning. In my home state Michigan, it is even worse: 68%.

Last year, President Obama began to work on this problem by signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The second part of this legislation has been stalled in the Senate, but it will finally receive its hearing. On March 11, the Senate will hold a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is an update of the 46-year old Equal Pay Act. If you want to read more about this legislation or if you want to send your senators a letter to support this legislation, go HERE (AAUW website page). They have set up the website so that it is very easy to create and send your message, either via email or on letterhead. It took me two minutes.

I will come back to this topic again since April 20th is Equal Pay Day. And HERE are some pay equity ideas for action for that day if you want to make the problem more visible around your local area.

All stats are taken from AAUW.