On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released new numbers showing that the gender wage gap was 77 percent in 2012, meaning women make just 77 cents for each dollar a man makes. Median earnings for men working full-time were $49,400 while women’s were just $37,800. These numbers didn’t show any significant change from 2011 and there hasn’t been an increase since 2007.
While many factors go into the disparity between what men and women make, even accounting for factors such as job tenure, whether someone goes part-time, industry, occupation, race, and marital status can’t explain the gap. Women make less than men no matter what job they take, what industry they enter, or how much education they attain. They are paid less beginning with their first jobs out of college right up until they reach the highest ranks of their companies.
And individual women report experiencing this discrimination. Thirty-one percent say they would be paid more if they were a man. Thirteen percent say they have been denied a raise because of their gender. And 70 percent of women say that being paid less than men is a big problem.
While the Lilly Ledbetter Act was an important step in giving women more power to fight discrimination, the wage gap has actually widened since then. Another important fix would be to end salary secrecy so that women can find out whether they are being discriminated against. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been introduced but voted down in Congress many times, would do just that. Other steps would include raising the minimum wage, enacting paid family leave policies, and increasing child care support.