Nearly all women in almost every line of work are paid less than a man including women who have attended universities and colleges, attained advanced degrees and acquired excellent job experience, according to recent research analyzed by the Association of American University Women (“AAUW”). And in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education. Often times, women do not know they are paid less than their male counterparts. That’s why the Paycheck Fairness Act 2014 needs to pass to close loopholes in existing laws and make it easier for all women to know and inquire about salary information without retaliation. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a full hearing on it on April 1, 2014. And the Paycheck Fairness Act is not being pushed for a show vote by Democratic Senate leaders.
Equal pay for women should not be a political issue. It should be a reality for all women. Yet, in 2014 on average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for the same job. And Latina women come in last, making only 54 cents to every dollar a man earns. African American women make 64 cents. Opponents of the gender pay gap cite many reasons why women may earn less than a man for the same position, including that many women take disproportionately lesser paying jobs in female dominated fields. That argument does not explain why most women in male dominated professions still earn less than a man for doing the same work, according to the Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap.
In the field of law, the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) Task Force on Gender Equity determined that the legal profession is subject to its own gender inequality in pay. Former ABA President Laurel Bellows stated in addressing the issue:
“Female lawyers are not immune to pay disparities. Many of us have watched as male colleagues have advanced their careers and earnings in ways that we have been denied because of nothing more than implicit bias. Female equity partners in the 200 largest firms, who do comparable work to men, earn 89 percent of the compensation of their male peers.”
In the April, 2014 print edition of Essence Magazine, I tell my personal story of how, I was offered and paid less annually for an attorney position, at a now defunct law firm, than a male co-worker and friend who had declined the job. When my co-worker turned down the offer, he told me about the open position including his salary offer. I was sure I would receive the same offer because if anything my credentials, experience and education were superior to his resume. To my surprise, he was offered $30,000 more than what they offered to me, a woman of color, for the same job. The difference of my friend being a white man made all the difference. I believe the firm provided me a lower salary offer because of what former ABA President Laurel Bellows calls “implicit bias.” And I am also sure they were not aware that my friend had told me of his salary offer. And that’s the case often with the gender pay gap. Women don’t usually know other co-workers’ salaries. That would be made easier with the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Earning less on a job follows women to other jobs. It’s not like you can tell your next employer that you should be paid, in my case, a minimum of $30,000 more because that’s what you lost on your last job every year. And so, over years the amount adds up as to what the pay should have been until the point where you cannot make up the difference. The pay gap costs a woman at least $400,000 over the course of their work life, according to AAUW Executive Director and CEO Linda D. Hallman, CAE.
Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, April 8, the symbolic day on which a woman must work in 2014 to catch up to a man’s wages earned in 2013. And this year, in spite of the gridlock in Congress, President Obama intends to sign an executive order on Equal Pay Day which will forbid federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay. And so once again the arguments on the gender pay gap will heat up. Unfortunately, the paychecks for many women still remain the same.
Note: This article first appeared in part in the Huffington Post on March 28, 2014.