Note: the statistics cited in this article come from DPE’s Professional Women: A Gendered Look at Inequality in the U.S. Workforce fact sheet.
Equal Pay Day is April 9th and a good time to reflect on the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act. In short, the law prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who are performing similar work under similar conditions. Each year since this law was passed, the Department of Labor has issued a report on the gap between the pay of men and women. Why? Because, despite the law the gap has not disappeared. For example, the gap between the pay of men and women in professional and technical occupations has only decreased by 2.6% between 2005 and 2015. Why? I am left with the only logical conclusion one could reach: “Women don’t deserve equal pay.”
After all, aren’t women a small part of the workforce?
No, nearly 71 million women are employed and makeup 47% of the labor force.
Aren’t women always taking time out of work to have children?
No, in fact even among women with children under the age of one, almost 58% of them work either full or part-time.
Aren’t women typically in low paying service sector jobs?
No, women make up large percentages of managerial, professional, technical and related occupations. In fact, 55% of working women are employed in professional and technical jobs.
Aren’t women working for a second income so the family can have a few extras around the house?
No, actually working outside the home is no longer an option for most women, regardless of race, age, and marital status. Both parents were employed in 61% of married-couple families with children under the age of 18. Since 1960, there has been a substantial increase in the number of families maintained solely by women.
Aren’t women less educated, earning lower degrees, earning less advanced degrees and aren’t their degrees in soft subjects compared to their male counterparts?
No, college enrollment of women has increased 120% between 1976 and 2014, and now exceeds that of men by nearly 3 million.
No, women have been earning more bachelor’s degrees than men since 1982.
No, women have been earning more master’s degrees than men since 1981.
No, women have been earning more doctoral degrees than men since 2006. They earned 52% of doctoral degrees in 2014, up from 11% in 1971.
No, women account for 47% of law school students, up from 4.2% in 1963, and the number of women in medical school has increased from 6% in 1960 to 48% in 2016.
We have a law on the books that was enacted in 1963 to address a wrong. However, by all indications, the situation that gave rise to the law is not much better today than it was nearly 50 years ago. Today the pay gap is 28% for women in professional and technical occupations. In a review of 2010 census data Bloomberg found only one occupation where women’s median pay was higher than men’s (personal care and service workers). In 1983, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the gap was 27.4% for professional and 29.4% for technical and related support women.
So, who wins and who loses by having this practice of unequal pay? Well, it’s obvious who loses: every working woman loses. But what may not be so obvious is how much the government loses as well. Assume 45 million women work; assume they lose an estimated $900 per month due to the pay gap; and assume the average tax rate is 11%. The lost annual revenue to the federal government would be in the range of $53 billion in income taxes, $60 billion in FICA, and $14 billion in Medicare.
So, who wins? There is only one answer: corporate America wins, and wins big. By suppressing working women’s wages, they maximize their profits and pay less to the government in taxes, and pay less in employer contributions to pension plans for all women. This has to be the best kept secret in Washington. It also must be the most lucrative corporate welfare plan ever.
No job in our nation requires less experience than that of U.S. Senator or Member of Congress. All you have to do is get elected. From day one, a newly elected female senator earns the same salary as her male counterpart with 5, 10, 20 or more years’ experience. Why? Because it is the law. Perhaps if the women in Congress earned 30% less, something would be done about this gross injustice. Maybe they should earn 30% less.
More than 2000 years ago Plato said, “If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” Since women are now taught the same things as men and do the same work as men isn’t it about time they were paid the same wage?
DPE’s fact sheet on Professional Women: A Gendered Look at Inequality in the U.S. Workforce provides additional information on the challenges working women face.
Updated February 2017