Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Equal Pay Day: Washington women still playing catch-up to men

From the Public News Service:

What men earn in a five-day work week takes women, on average, seven days to earn. This week, Tuesday is “Equal Pay Day,” a date marked every year by workers’ and women’s rights groups as the point at which a woman’s pay “catches up” to a man’s pay from the previous year. In Washington, both sexes earn more per hour than workers do in other states, but the gender gap in their paychecks still exists, and it’s about $5 less per hour for women.

Erin Bennett, with the 9to5, National Association of Working Women, sees this as proof that the 1963 Equal Pay Act has not been taken seriously.

“Women have to work essentially from Jan. 1, 2010, until April 12, 2011, to make the equivalent of what men made working from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2010.”

Bennett says the pay gap is even larger for women of color: African-American women earn on average 71 cents and Hispanic women 56 cents, for every dollar earned by a white man.

Some believe the pay gap exists not because of widespread discrimination, but as the result of women’s individual career choices and decisions to take time off to raise children.

A new report from the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) says Washington women working full-time earn 75 percent of what men earn, and it blames much of the disparity on workplace policies that put women at a disadvantage when juggling jobs and family responsibilities. Bennett says that’s only part of the problem.

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“Since the Equal Pay Act passed, the pay gap has only closed by half a cent per year. If it keeps closing at the same rate, we actually won’t reach equal pay for 45 more years – until 2056.”

The EOI report, “The State of Working Washington,” also notes that, while women make less, unemployment and underemployment have hit men harder in the recession. From 2007 to 2009, Washington’s unemployment rate for men jumped from 4.7 percent to 10.3 percent, while for women, it rose to 8 percent.

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