“We’re sick of being treated like second-class citizens. It wears on you after a while. And we are done with it.”
On the fifty-third anniversary of the Equal Pay Act being signed into law, I wish I could tell you this quote is just an insightful throwback to a less just era and that we have since moved on to conquer the gender pay gap. Unfortunately I can’t because no, we haven’t.
The quote above first appeared this week in a piece to the New York Times by Carli Lloyd, co-captain of the United States women’s national soccer team and undeniable shero. When news broke that not only do players on the women’s team get paid less than their male counterparts – they make less winning games than the men make losing games – they actually bring in more revenue than the men’s team. This latest example of the gender pay gap is so egregious, so ridiculous, it went viral overnight. How could these powerful women, so clearly qualified and impressive, still make less than men?
Because the gender pay gap struggle is real, even if you have two Olympic gold medals. Millions of working women, while maybe not as high-profile as these professional athletes experience the very same frustratingly persistent struggle every day.
To highlight the persistent pay gap, each year Equal Pay Day is chosen by determining how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. This year Equal Pay Day is April 12th.
Women currently make 79 cents to a man's dollar, and the wage gap is even wider for women of color. African-American women make 60 cents, and Latinas make 55 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic male makes. While more likely to have advanced degrees than white men, Asian-American women are still paid less - making 84 cents to the dollar of their white, male counterparts. The gender pay gap also grows considerably with age, with women ages 55-64 earning just 76% of what their male peers are paid.
At this rate, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated that it will be 2059 before women receive equal pay. Not only is this simply unfair, it’s a drag on our economy. The National Women’s Law Center suggests that the average American woman will earn about $430,000 less than a man over a 40-year career. Women are equal, if not the main breadwinners in four out of ten families. Imagine how many families would be better off if women were simply paid fairly.
We’re done waiting to find out. Alongside progressive allies, the California Labor movement has worked to take bold steps forward to shut down the pay gap for good. Thanks to strong workplace protections, California leads the nation with women covered by a union contract - a powerful way to ensure transparent and fair salaries for women and their male coworkers. Just last year, the California Fair Pay Act was signed into law to bring similar security to millions of women not yet organized and working without the benefit of a union contract. The law expanded protections for women and makes it illegal for a boss to retaliate against employees who ask about or discuss wages with their coworkers. Laws like this that protect workers and increase transparency in the workplace are one of the many ways we can put an end to the pay gap. This is just one of the many reasons California’s wage gap is one of the lowest in the nation.
There is still so much to be done. Dismantling decades of entrenched sexism and racism may not happen overnight. But if we’ve learned anything from our sisters throughout history and from the U.S. Women’s soccer team this week, if we stand together we can challenge the status quo.
Rachel Warino is a communications specialist for the California Labor Federation.