Four years ago today, President Obama signed his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, meant to address the pay gap between men and women. Ledbetter famously worked years without knowing that she was being paid less than her male co-workers for doing similar work. The Supreme Court threw out a case against her employer, saying that she had waited too long to challenge the pay disparity. The Ledbetter law is meant to ensure that women have ways to take action against pay discrimination.
But even with the passage of Ledbetter, the pay gap remains a stubbornly persistent problem. Here are some facts and figures to know:
— The amount a woman loses to the pay gap could feed a family of four for 37 years. A woman could also use that money to buy seven degrees at a four-year public university or 14 new cars.
— The pay gap starts early. One year out of college, women make 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers for doing similar work.
— The wage gap grows over a woman’s career. For working women in their 20s, “the annual wage gap is $1,702. In the last five years before retirement, however, the annual wage gap jumps to $14,352.”
— A woman’s pay, on average, stops growing when she turns 39. For men, wage growth doesn’t stop until age 48.
— The pay gap plagues higher-paying jobs. Despite women earning more advanced degrees, the pay gap hasn’t closed for specialized professions. Female doctors earn $350,000 less than men over their careers. Female CEOs earn 69 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, and female lawyers make tens of thousands of dollars less than their male peers.
President Obama mentioned the pay gap in his inauguration speech, saying, “Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” Last week, Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes in the 1960s-era Equal Pay Act.