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Department & Division News

Closing the Gender Pay Gap

(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

By Research & Education Department Director Joyce B. Robinson

Because women earn less than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. In 1996, The National Committee on Pay Equity originated Equal Pay Day to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages and create a symbolic day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year. This year, Equal Pay Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

Protection Under the Law

On the federal level, women employees are protected by The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform equal work. However, many states do not follow these laws. According to data from the US Census Bureau, the average gender pay gap in the United States is around 19.5 percent, with women earning 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart. Louisiana has the largest gender pay gap in the country at 30 percent and New York and California have the smallest at 11 percent.

Nationally, the median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time job is $41,977 and $52,146 for a man, creating an annual gender wage gap of $10,169. Out of the 25 largest metropolitan cities, the narrowest gender wage gap is in Tampa, FL, where women make approximately 89 percent of the median salary for men – higher than the national average. However, the ratios for Hispanic and black women there are 61 percent and 65 percent, respectively, when compared to white men. White women in Tampa earn 83 percent of white men’s salaries.

Women of color face the biggest pay gap and Asian women face the smallest when compared to white men. Latina women are typically paid 53 cents, Native American women 58 cents and Black women 61 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. White, non-Hispanic women are paid 77 cents and Asian women 85 cents for every dollar paid to white, non- Hispanic men, although some ethnic subgroups of Asian women are paid much less.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research Findings

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), women comprise half of the workforce, are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children, and receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men.

Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men.

IWPR tracks the gender wage gap in a series of fact sheets updated twice per year. The reports on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues. According to its research, if change continues at the same slow pace as the past fifty years, it will take 41 years – or until 2059 – for women to finally reach pay parity. For women of color, the rate of change is even slower: Black women will wait until 2119 for equal pay and Hispanic women until 2224.

Paycheck Fairness Act

Introduced into Congress by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), The Paycheck Fairness Act would help to strengthen the Equal Pay Act and eliminate wage discrimination by protecting employees against retaliation for discussing salaries with colleagues, prohibiting employers from screening job applicants based on their salary history, and removing obstacles in the Equal Pay Act to facilitate plaintiffs’ participation in class action lawsuits. 

Resources: Institute for Women’s Policy Research, National Committee on Pay Equity, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau.