We Earn 77 Cents for Every Dollar Men Earn: What We Can Do

Do you ever feel like you’re working harder but earning less? Running only to feel like you’re falling behind, financially speaking? Well, it’s not just because of the recession, but also likely because you’re a woman.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is the day that the pay that working American women have earned in 2009 and 2010 catches up with what working American men earned in 2009 alone. That’s right, it takes more than a third of the year to catch up, the catch being that we never actually catch up.

Tomorrow may be dubbed “Equal Pay Day,” but it ought to be called “Unequal Pay Day.”

According to the the National Council of Jewish Women, we’re still earning just 78 cents for each dollar earned by men. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the gap between women’s and men’s earnings actually widened a bit between 2007 and 2008 (the most recent years for which information is available), from women earning nearly 78 cents for each dollar earned by men, to 77 cents.

“When you look at men and women who are just leaving college and the pay they’re offered for similar jobs, there’s an even greater discrepancy,” Sammie Moshenberg, NCJW’s Director of Washington Operations, told The Sisterhood. “One of the things the Paycheck Fairness Act would do, it has money to train women on negotiation skills. Women are more likely to take the first offer they’re given.”

“From the get go there’s discrimination on wages. Women who are cleaners get less than men who are janitors. Any way you cut it there’s discrimination. Add to that that there are times women are out of the work force, and it’s a personal wage deficit that impacts retirement, Social Security, a lot of things.”

Going to the NCJW’s web page about it will show you what action you can take to help legislatively rectify this wrong, including contacting those who represent us in the U.S. Senate.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was passed at the same time as the Lilly Ledbetter Act last year in the House of Representatives, and with a greater margin of votes. But the Paycheck Fairness Act remains stalled in the Senate.

“We’re really hoping that this is the year that it passes,” Moshenberg said, “and using Equal Pay Day to draw attention to this bill is one of the steps that has to be taken.”

The Ledbetter Act relates to the amount of time a worker has to file a pay discrimination case in court, while the Paycheck Fairness Act would more comprehensively address the issue of the pay imbalance.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, “The Act would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the EPA [the Equal Pay Act of 1963] and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The bill also allows women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and national origin.”

What else can we do? In addition to urging our Senators to vote for it, we can deal with it in our own families. We can raise our daughters to be as assertive in advocating for themselves as our sons are. Cultural change is at least partly in our hands.

After all, I want my two daughters to feel no less entitled to work hard and earn a good salary as I do my son. I sure don’t want them earning less.

Putting the disparity between the pay earned by men and women into particularly stark relief is this chart, which illustrates how little improvement there has been over the past 50 years.

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