What to Do on Equal Pay Day

iStock_000002559773XSmallBy Robin Madell (San Francisco)

Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color.
–The National Committee on Pay Equity

Today – April 9, 2013 – is Equal Pay Day. This annual public awareness event originated in 1996 through the efforts of the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) to bring attention to the gap that exists between women’s and men’s wages.

And lest you think that women have caught up to men in yearly salaries, a newly released report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), titled The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, reveals otherwise. Equal Pay Day is the symbolic date in April when women’s wages finally catch up to men’s from the year before—and the report confirms that it takes nearly 16 months to get there rather than 12.

The report, which is based on data released by the U.S. Census Bureau at the beginning of the year, provides an annual breakdown of the gender pay gap by state, race/ethnicity, education, and age. What it shows, according to AAUW executive director Linda D. Hallman, is that women are losing “tens of thousands of dollars” in wages. In a statement released by the organization, AAUW’s director of research Catherine Hill stated that the report shows the gender pay gap “hasn’t budged” in the past 10 years.

In a state-by-state comparison, the report shows that Wyoming has the largest wage gap—there, women received only 67 percent of men’s earnings in 2011. Washington, D.C., on the other hand, saw the smallest wage gap—D.C. women received 90 percent of what men were paid.

In terms of race and ethnicity, Hispanic/Latina and African-American women made less in median weekly earnings than white and Asian-American women did. Hispanic/Latina women received only 59 percent of white men’s earnings in 2012. Asian-American women’s salaries had the smallest gap in gender pay when compared with white male workers, at 88 percent of white men’s earnings.

The gap also affects some age groups more than others. For workers age 20-24, the pay gap already is 7 percent. But it widens as women become more senior in their roles and enter their prime earning years. The gap stretches to 24 percent among full-time workers ages 45-54 – which means that older women face a pay gap three times larger than younger employees.

What You Can Do

Seeing such stubborn and slow-moving statistics is frustrating—the salary discrepancy between genders in some ways mirrors the incremental rate of change of women on board seats. (An Ernst & Young report, Getting on Board [PDF], found that in 2006, for S&P 500 companies, women occupied only 14% of the more than 5,000 corporate board seats. In 2012, the number had barely inched forward to 17%.)

Instead of despairing, the NCPE suggests a number of recommendations as part of its Equal Pay Day Kit:

  • Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece for your local newspaper to express your support for gender pay equity.
  • Make an Equal Pay Day proclamation to encourage your mayor to endorse and publicize the issue.
  • Contact your House Representative, Senators, and members of Congress to tell them how you feel about fair pay.
  • Start a WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Club to encourage other women to join a series of discussions [PDF] on how to close the wage gap in their workplaces.
  • Encourage your employer to take a Pay Equity Self-Audit to help management analyze corporate practices in relation to the wage gap.
  • Join as an individual member—and ask your employer to join as a voting member, associate member, or governmental member—of NCPE.

In addition to these suggestions, you might want to check out a new mobile app called Earn More Girl. The app, which is available for iPhones and iPads, allows women to enter their current pay and select their job type to find out what they would probably earn if they were paid similarly to men. The app’s Pro version also calculates your True Target Salary, helping you determine what you’re really worth.