In 1963, the Equal Pay Act made it illegal for men and women to get different pay for similar work. But overall, women still aren't earning as much as men.
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Overall, women get paid 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. It's worse for some BIPOC women. On average, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women earn 80 cents, Black women earn 64 cents, Hispanic and Latina women earn 54 cents, and Native American women make 51 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to US Census Bureau 2021 earnings data as analyzed by the National Committee on Pay Equity. This affects more than just today's paychecks. Getting paid less contributes to a much bigger wealth gap between women and men.
Why is this happening?
For one, traditional gender norms often funnel women into lower-paying roles (think: home health aides and child care workers) and discourage them from higher-paying jobs. Women are also often expected to handle unpaid caregiving for family members. That can cut into their work hours or stretch them too thin.
Oh, and gender-based discrimination is still a thing. Even if it's not overt. Example: Men, who are the majority of managers, are less willing to mentor female employees, which hurts women's odds of advancing. Another example: The "double bind," a catch-22 where women need to be assertive to get what they want, but are penalized or seen as too aggressive when they ask for it.
How can we fix this?
Raise awareness. Various Equal Pay Days have been established to bring attention to the pay gap. In 2023, Equal Pay Day falls on March 14, which marks how far into this year a woman in the US would need to work, on average, to catch up to a man’s pay from 2022. This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is on July 27. Latina’s Equal Pay Day is on October 5. And Native Women's Equal Pay Day is on November 30. AANHPI Women’s Equal Pay Day is still TBD (it was observed on May 3 in 2022).
The more people recognize and understand the pay gap, the more pressure it can put on employers and the gov to make systemic changes and fix it. Like supporting pay transparency, offering mentorship programs and clear growth opportunities, and providing paid family and medical leave.
Is there anything I can do?
The nation needs to work together to take down barriers to equal pay. But there are some things you can do to earn more now and help close the gap.
Ask for more money. And build your case for deserving it. Note new responsibilities you've taken on since your pay was set. And pull together stats (in dollars and cents, if you can) to show how much you've contributed to the company. Bonus points if you can pitch what else you can do...if you were paid for it.
Job-hop with intention. If the above doesn't work — or even if it does — think about when it's time to move on. One study found that switching jobs results in a 5.4% pay bump vs. a 4% raise for employees who stay put. And these days, many employers are offering sign-on bonuses, in addition to higher salaries, to attract new talent.
Talk about salary. You can find reported pay ranges on sites like Payscale and Glassdoor. Or you can go directly to the source(s). Reach out to a trusted colleague and offer to swap salary info, if they’re comfortable sharing. This isn't just for research. Transparency is key to exposing inequities. If more people are open about how much they make, the lower the odds they'll unknowingly accept less than they're worth.
The gender pay gap holds women, especially most BIPOC women, back from wealth-building and financial independence. And while the gov and employers need to make big changes to close the gap, there are ways you can help — and earn more now.
Updated March 10 to include updated information on equal pay
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