On Tuesday, millions of American women (and male allies) will recognize Equal Pay Day. The date is set aside each April to signify how much longer into the next year women must work in order to earn the same amount of money as men did that year. But some may wonder why the 2018 Equal Pay Day is a week later than the 2017 date.
Equal Pay Day began in 1996 as a way to highlight the persistent wage gap between men and women in the United States. As Christine Romans outlined on CNN Money, women earn roughly $.80 for every dollar men make, and that extends across industries. For example, women in engineering make about $.82 to their male counterparts' buck, $.78 in education, and just $.56 in legal careers.
Over the course of the average woman's lifetime, that amounts to over $400,000 in lost wages for women — and the outlook is even more bleak for most minority women. Romans noted that the wage gap has been slowly but steadily closing over the past few decades. Still, at the current rate, it will be 44 more years until it's eradicated entirely.
So on Tuesday, April 10, all those in favor of equal pay will pause to consider that women have to work extra months into each year to match the annual salary men collected by Dec. 31 of the previous year.
So it may be tempting to assume that the later date in 2018 signals the wage gap grew over the previous year. But that is actually not the case. The simple answer for why this year's Equal Pay Day falls on the second Tuesday of April is that each year's date is chosen to avoid conflicts with other holidays. Last year, Passover would have conflicted with the second week of April, so Equal Pay Day was observed during the first week, on April 4. This year, the calendar put Passover at the end of March, so Equal Pay Day is during the second week, on April 10.
One thing that always remains consistent is Tuesday — that's because women must work at least one extra day into the next week in order to earn what men collected at the close of the previous Friday. It makes sense, right?
Of course, the fight for equal pay for equal work dates back well before there was a national day to recognize it. As Charlotte Alter pointed out in Time, an 1869 letter to the editor of the New York Times questioned why male government employees were earning more money than their female counterparts. In fact, that same year, the House of Representatives passed a law mandating equal pay for men and women who work in government positions, though Alter noted that the Senate's final version weakened that provision.
When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Law in 1963, women were earning just $.59 on the dollar compared to male workers. Just 37 years later, in the 2000, women's wages had made some headway, with the gap narrowing to $.74 per male dollar.
More recently, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1991 ensured female employees could not be discriminated against due to pregnancy, and that mothers and fathers were entitled to time off when a child was born, respectively.
Then in 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which allowed women to take a pay discrimination claim to the courts, even if more than 180 days had passed from the initial disparity. That legislation put added pressure on businesses to be more aware of their equal pay practices.
Still, the wage gap persists, and with it, the need for an Equal Pay Day every April. And while the date might be later this year, perhaps it's some small comfort that you don't ~technically~ have to work an extra six days in 2018 to catch up with men. Just those extra months, you know?