By Anna Gotsch
In honor of Women’s Equal Pay Day this week we thought it might be a good idea to see how far we’ve come in the fight for equal pay. As it turns out, the COVID-19 pandemic has actually set women back pretty far. While this may be disappointing, don’t let yourself get discouraged. Now more than ever we need to bring awareness to the facts and join in the fight.
Women’s Equal Pay Day falls on March 24 this year. This date represents how far into the year women have to work to earn as much as men did in the previous year. In other words, women have to work 15 months to earn what men do in 12 months. The national pay gap falls at about 18%, which essentially means that women stop getting paid around 2:40pm in a typical 9-5 job. Unfortunately, the wage gap is even wider for women of color.
Women’s Equal Pay Day was first launched in 1996 by the National Pay Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). The NCPE was formed in 1979 in order to address pay equity through a different lens than the one through which The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. The Equal Pay Act made it illegal to pay men and women in the same job different wages. However, the problem was that due to gender discrimination in the workplace very few women worked in the exact same jobs as men. Therefore, the NCPE fought for valuing comparable work done by women instead of the same exact work. Otherwise, women would continue to face significant pay inequality.
While the movement toward equal pay has seen significant advancements over the past 50 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately set women back a pretty decent amount. According to the Center for American Progress, four times as many women dropped out of the labor force in September of 2020. Michael Martin from NPR states that, “Women are now at the lowest workforce participation level since 1988.”
There are a couple reasons for these disappointing statistics. First, women-dominated fields, such as hospitality, have been hit hard by the pandemic. These fields tend to be dominated by Black and Latina women specifically, who now face higher unemployment rates than white women. Additionally, the majority of women are still responsible for most of the childcare duties in their families. The Center for American Progress estimates that 4.5 million child care spots could be permanently lost due to the pandemic. Therefore, many women have been forced to quit their jobs in order to take care of their children following school and daycare closures.
While the pandemic will not last forever, the effects on women and gender equality could be long-lasting. In addition to these trends affecting women’s financial security, women leaving the workforce reinforces the idea that women should be the primary caregiver in the family. Therefore, women moving from paid employment to providing unpaid labor in the home could have negative impacts on gender equality, which in turn could make it harder for women to re-enter the workforce.
These statistics may be disheartening, but this is not the time for us to give up. This is the time to fight back even harder. Here are some easy ways you can join in the fight. Stay informed and inform others. How can we fight for something if we don’t even know what we’re fighting for? Knowing the facts and sharing those facts with others can have a huge impact on the fight for equal pay. Once you know the facts, find out how to contact your local representatives and make your voice heard.
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