Women have come a long way in creating a role for themselves in society. Prior to the Women’s movement and other historical events that brought attention to their rights, women were traditionally deemed inferior to men. However, throughout the years, women began to gain more acknowledgement and raised their voices in matters such as politics, business, and in society. Nevertheless, the gender pay gap remains a barrier to equality. The Economic Policy Institute gathered data which shows that women continue to be paid significantly less than men. Their ethnicity and background further influences how badly they’re affected. When they have no partner to contribute financially for the household, it affects them even more.
Based on a New York Times article by the editorial board, in 2014 women earned 79 cents for every dollar a man made. When the Equal pay act was put into effect in 1963, women who worked full time generally made 59 cents for every dollar that went into her male colleague’s salary. The editorial board states that in the last few decades, there has been a steady improvement in women’s wages however, they still remain below the wages for men in the same profession. Catherine Hill is the Vice President of the American Association of University Women which advocates for women’s equity and education. She explained in her Economic Justice report that women from African American and Hispanic backgrounds are facing similar problems, although their pay difference from men of their ethnicity is lower than the white race. This is due to the fact that men of other races have traditionally been paid less than white men. She provides a graph from 2014 which shows that women from these backgrounds made around 10,000 dollars less than white and Asian women in annual earnings.
Generally people with a higher level of education tend to find a better job and higher salary, however it is not effective against the gender pay gap. Thus the ways for women to be guaranteed a higher salary for their hard work is limited. Since an aspect of success is determined by one’s salary, more women fail to become as successful as men in their field of work. The National Women’s Law Center emphasizes that families are largely harmed by these circumstances, especially when a women is the sole breadwinner. They point out that single mothers have no other source of income so they have to work in order feed and provide shelter for their children. As they focus on the impacts of the wage gap, they revealed that in 2013 over 61 percent of working single mother families suffered from financial hardship as their poverty level fell under $18,800.
There have been several attempts made by the government to further enhance a woman’s right to equal pay. The White House site states that the initial support for equal pay between men and women by the government is clearly demonstrated through the Equal Pay Act signed by John F. Kennedy. This act ensured that men and women wouldn’t face sex discrimination in their workplace and they would both be compensated equally for the same work. However, they claim that wage disparities still exist regardless of the changes made for women’s equal pay. The New York Times article also disclosed that during several years of his presidency, President Obama tried to pass a bill for a Paycheck Fairness Act which would cover the whole American workforce, but it was eventually prevented by Republicans.
The process of acquiring a woman’s right to equal pay is long and faced with obstacles. Diana Rodriguez, a high school student voiced her opinion on this issue and stated, “most women of color tend to encounter discrimination in the workplace and their salary is lower than other workers. The treatment they get at work affects their self esteem and more, so it is only fair that their hard work is equally compensated.” Catherine Hill explains in her report that there is always room for improvement in the workplace, which contributes to a lower pay gap. She mentions that a difference between female and male workers is that males are more determined to negotiate for a higher salary or promotion. Due to the fear of being criticized or received as arrogant, women since an early age have been adapted to keeping quiet on these subjects. However, “Women can learn strategies to better negotiate for equal pay”, Hill concluded.
Written by Tsering Dolkar
Photo Courtesy of National Education Association