On June 10 1963 — exactly 49 years ago today — President John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to prohibit wage discrimination against women. From his remarks that day:
This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.
While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity–for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men–this legislation is a significant step forward.
…It is a first step. It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes.
Exactly 49 years later, women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Over a lifetime, the pay gap adds up to more than $430,000 in lost wages for an individual on women.
Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act — legislation that would have cracked down on wage discrimination and closed the wage gap.