On Equal Pay Day, We Still Have A Long Road Ahead

by Chris Carson
League of Women Voters

Tuesday, April 4, is this year's Equal Pay Day because it marks the number of days into 2017 that an American woman needs to work in order to earn what a man earned in 2016.

You read that right.

That’s sixty-five extra days of work for American women to earn a man’s salary from last year.

We are more than a quarter of the way through the calendar and twelve working weeks into the year.

That’s six extra pay checks a man earns for doing the same work as a woman.

How is this still the case, that in 2017 women earn only 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterpart? And that wage gap is even larger for women of color, with African American women 64 cents and Latino women only 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

It has been nearly 95 years since the first Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in Congress to guarantee women the same rights as men. Today, we still don’t have it.

Women and our families are being shortchanged thousands of dollars a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

Since the 1970s, lobbying for the ERA has been a top priority for the League of Women Voters.

League of Women Voters

In the 1980s, we played a key role the broad-based National Committee on Pay Equity.

In the 1990s, the League endorsed the Economic Equity Act, which includes provisions to eliminate sex discrimination in pensions and insurance and the Women’s Pension Equity Act, legislation designed to make pension law simpler and more even-handed.

While some states have ratified the ERA, it has not become part of our U.S. Constitution.There is still a lot more work to do.

The League supports action to bring laws into compliance with the ERA. We push for elimination or amendments to those laws that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of sex. We promote laws that support the goals of the ERA and to strengthen the enforcement of such existing laws.

League of Women Voters

And on this day, where we shine a spotlight on this inequality, there are ways to close this pay gap.

  • We need stronger programs in basic education, occupational education and retraining when needed at any point of an individual’s working career.
  • We need more access to child-care centers for preschool children, in order to give mothers more opportunity for employment.
  • The federal government should withhold contracts from businesses and industries that discriminate in employment.
  • And we need an effective federal fair employment practices agency.

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920, just as women earned the right to vote. Ninety-seven years later, we are still fighting for our equality.

We need to create a national movement to bring attention to this issue. And not just on one day each year, but a consistent push for equal rights every day.

If you care about equal pay, contact your members of Congress and make sure you, and your friends, are registered to vote.