Today, April 8, is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into 2014 women must work to earn what men earned in 2013 alone.
The reality is, despite making up 51 percent of the population and approximately 47 percent of the workforce, not to mention earning 58.5 percent of all graduate degrees, women still make on average just 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men. The gap is even wider for women of color; African-American women make just 69 cents on the dollar compared with what African-American men earn, and Hispanic women make just 58 cents on the dollar compared with Hispanic men.
This is what President Obama meant when he talked about “workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.”
It’s truly astonishing that in 2014, a gender pay gap exists in every state, across almost every occupation, and even among women with advanced degrees. It’s all the more egregious considering the fact that American families today rely on women’s income to contribute to their financial security more than ever before. A recent Pew Research study found that women are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of American households with children under 18, up from 11 percent in 1960. So, by paying women less than they’re worth, we’re not just shortchanging women, we’re shortchanging their families.
That’s why I launched my Opportunity Plan, a five-point agenda to expand opportunity for women in the workplace to ensure middle class families are getting a fair shot to thrive in the 21st century economy.
Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to help close the gender wage gap is just one element of this agenda. This bill would update the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by making it easier to challenge gender-based wage disparities, requiring employers to demonstrate that wage differences are not gender-based but are a function of the necessity of doing business; and it would prohibit retaliation against employees who share salary information.
I’m pleased the Senate will hold a vote on this important legislation this afternoon and I urge my Republican colleagues to join us in standing with America’s women in support of equal pay for equal work. Also today, President Obama will be signing two executive orders, to implement elements of the Paycheck Fairness Act for federal contract workers. This is a strong step toward pay equity, and I commend President Obama for his commitment to women’s empowerment. But we must act to protect all working women.
But equal pay is not the only policy we must pursue. To truly expand opportunity for all working women, we must also pass the FAMILY Act to guarantee every worker paid family & medical leave, we must raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hour, we must implement universal Pre-K so every child in America has the same chance at future success, and we must increase tax credits to make childcare more affordable so working moms don’t have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of her kids.
In 2014, it’s well past time that we had an economy that worked for all Americans, and paying women the same as their male counterparts is not just the fair thing to do, but it’s the economically smart thing to do. For only once America’s women are able to achieve their full economic potential, will America be able to achieve hers.