Women across industries — be it entertainment, customer service, legal, care, and other fields — face problems and discrimination men do not have to deal with or even notice in their daily lives. Many times, women have to adjust their personal goals and morals to become successful in any position and in our society — pit against each other as they are expected to compete for their spot, forced to choose between their work and home lives, and being judged for all of it. Unfortunately, companies do little to nothing to protect women professionals, especially when it comes to equal pay.
According to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Affirmative Action, in order for there to be diversity in corporations, women must be equally considered and paid for the same work, including in the highest positions of each company and for representation on executive boards. But women’s salaries don’t always reflect these duties.
Equal pay for equal work is a basic principle. Yet, nearly six decades after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women still make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. For women of color, it’s worse. Black women’s equal pay day is in July and Black women working full-time are paid 64 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Latina women’s equal pay day is in October, with full-time workers being paid 54 cents as compared to white men. And Native women’s equal pay day is in November, with the ratio coming to 51 cents for every dollar white men make.
Being a woman in a male-dominated work environment is difficult. As a Black woman, I have been in the position where I knew I could have offered more towards my roles but was denied a pay rate comparable to my colleagues. My very first job, as one of the two new hires, I was offered a rate of $12.00/hr, and my coworker who happened to be a white male (like my boss) was offered 12.50/hr. He was also expected to do less of the hospitable work than I was and was given the opportunity to choose his hours. But knowing that women of color are often asked to take on responsibilities outside of the ones they’re hired for, I did not want to spread myself too thin without proper compensation. I have also been in situations where I’ve tried to negotiate my pay and was denied, seemingly because of my gender and race.
Negotiating on your own behalf is already hard, and opportunities to do so aren’t always obvious. Many women of color don’t even realize negotiation is a possibility for them. It is also very difficult to negotiate without knowing the pay range that you should be in with your experience and qualifications. Without transparent salary information, you may have no idea about salary differences among people doing the same job. Women need to feel more comfortable discussing salary information openly to begin to break down the barriers around equal pay. Many states are currently aiming to address this issue by requiring that pay bands are mentioned in the job description.
The gender pay gap has no place in a society that recognizes women as equal to men. The wage gap leaves everyone worse off, especially people who are starting families. We see this a lot when women take parental leave. Since women are already affected by the gender wage gap, without paid parental leave they will be far more behind in earnings just so they can take care of their household. Women legislators have been pushing for a law to be passed that will modernize the Equal Pay Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) has been considered in Congress since 1997, but has yet to become law. In 2021, the Democratic-led House passed it, but the Senate GOP voted against and filibustered it. Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the bill in the House this month.
The Paycheck Fairness Act does a few things: Bans employers from asking job applicants how much they made in previous jobs, prevents employers from banning salary conversations with coworkers, requires employers to be more transparent about pay and to share that information with the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and fixes current problems with how the Equal Pay Act has been interpreted in court.
I support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and you should too as we push for women’s rights in the 21st century. This act helps all families have the opportunity to thrive and encourages equality amongst genders. I am in support of any policy that drives social change and has a huge impact on our democratic values while still protecting vulnerable communities.