Monday marks 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law stipulates that women must be paid equal wages for equal work. Yet a half century later, the gender wage gap still stands at 77 cents earned by a woman for every dollar a man makes. Here are some other reasons why progress has been glacially slow since 1963:
4. Mothers experience a steep wage gap. Just one in five families today feature a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home mother. Yet despite how many mothers work, they are penalized heavily by the gender wage gap. While men and women start out with a wage gap at an early age, they still see similar growth in their pay through age 30, taking in about 60 percent more. But many women start having children at age 30, and that’s when their wage growth slows, nearly grinding to a halt by age 39. In fact, mothers earn 5 percent less per hour per child than childless women.
5. Most workers can’t talk about pay, so women have a tough time addressing discrimination. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, nearly half of all workers are either expressly forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay with coworkers. This is a big barrier facing women who may suspect they are being paid less than their male peers but who can’t ask directly.
Few federal laws addressing the gender wage gap have been enacted since the Equal Pay Act five decades ago. The Lilly Ledbetter Act took an important step toward reducing the legal barriers facing women who are discriminated against, but the gap has actually widened since the law was enacted. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been introduced but voted down in Congress many times, would go an important step further and end salary secrecy, empowering women to better root out unequal pay.