Progress Toward Equal Pay In The Last 45 Years: 19 Cents

equalpayiiOn Equal Pay Day 2009 — the day on which the average woman’s pay will catch up to a man’s total earnings from the previous year — Change.Org’s Jen Nedeau points us to this stat:

[I]n the United States, women are paid only 78¢ on average for every dollar paid to men. The National Women’s Law Center reports how when President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, it made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform equal work….At the time of the Equal Pay Act’s passage in 1963, women were paid merely 59 cents to every dollar earned by men. Hmm – so in 45 years, women’s wages compared to men’s have only increased by 19 cents?

Plus, “over the last six years, the wage gap has closed only 2 cents.” That’s slow progress, to be sure.

The Wonk Room has noted before that the difference between the median wages of all full-time working men and women over a 40 year period amounts to about $434,000, on average. Women’s pay is actually less than men’s in every one of the 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the US Census Bureau in 2007.

And as Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) pointed out, “the impact of the wage gap is particularly painful in our current economic downturn as families struggle to make ends meet in the face of stagnant wages and job losses”:

Women make up more than 46 percent of the workforce and, as the number of working women continues to grow, so does the number of families reliant solely on the salaries of women. Since the recession began in December 2007, 3.7 million men have lost their jobs; creating even more families dependant on the smaller pay checks women earn.

The Congress has passed — and President Obama has signed into law — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is a good step toward full pay equality. But as CAP’s Jessica Arrons, Heather Boushey and Lauren Smith wrote, more can be done, including passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. The act prohibits retaliation against employees who actively seek knowledge regarding the pay rates of their coworkers, closes “loopholes that employers have exploited to avoid paying fines and provides funding for programs that will train women to negotiate their wages.”