April 14 is Equal Pay Day.
Why do we need a whole day to draw attention to the problem—and possible solutions—to gender-based wage discrimination? Because if we do nothing other than wait, Pennsylvania women will not earn equal pay until the year 2072.
That’s 57 years from now. As recently noted on The Daily Show we expect to use a 3-D printer to create a fake human heart before we expect to achieve equal pay.
Though some progress was made narrowing the gender pay gap between men and women following the adoption of the Equal Pay Act in the 1963, the progress has stalled.
As Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee last year, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s pay narrowed by only 1.7 percent between 2004 and 2013.
The most recent analysis of equal pay in Pennsylvania shows that on average women in Pennsylvania earn just 76% of what men in the state earn, though that number varies by location within the state, race and ethnicity. The gender wage gap widens significantly more for women of color, with Latinas faring the worst.
The good news: there are reasonable policy solutions.
In Pennsylvania, lawmakers like Rep. Brian Sims are proposing to strengthen the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more for the same work and banning wage secrecy policies. Most women suffering economic discrimination by being paid less than her male counterpart do not know it until after they leave the job—or ever.
President Obama acknowledged the role of wage secrecy in perpetuating the gender wage gap last year when he signed an executive order last year prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talked about their salaries.
“Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it,” the president said, “not in federal contracting or anywhere else.”
A 2011 survey from the IWPR found that about half of workers “report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment.”
Unsurprisingly, the same study found employers prefer to keep it that way.
Want to learn more?
Terry L. Fromson and a panel of experts including a representative from the U.S. Department of Labor will be speaking about equal pay and other policy issues affecting women in Pennsylvania at the Library of Philadelphia at 2pm on Tuesday, April 14.
Click here for more details and to register, and follow the conversation at #EqualPayNow.