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March 12 marks Equal Pay Day this year

In the US, women have to work about 14.5 months to make 12 months’ worth of a man’s median wages.
FS Productions/Tetra images RF/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
In the US, women have to work about 14.5 months to make 12 months’ worth of a man’s median wages.

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN

New York (CNN) — March 12 marks Equal Pay Day in the United States, a symbolic date representing the number of days women have to work into the current year just to make the same amount of money men made in the prior one.

Put another way, to make 12 months’ worth of a man’s median wages, a woman has to work about 14.5 months.

In dollars and cents, for every dollar a man earns, a woman is paid 84 cents, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity and the Equal Pay Today campaign.

That’s based on earnings data for full-time, year-round workers from the US Census in 2022, which was the most recent full-year data set available. If part-time workers and those not employed year-round are included, the gender pay gap is worse, at 78 cents on the dollar, said Deborah Vagins, national campaign director of Equal Rights Advocates and director of Equal Pay Today.

The size of the actual wage gap between men and women will widen or narrow depending on age, level of education, choice of occupation and tenure, as well as race and ethnicity.

The gender pay gap is typically widest when comparing the earnings of White men to Black, Hispanic or Native American women.

And, generally speaking, the gap is narrower in a given job when men and women are in their early- to mid-20s (i.e., when they are new to the workforce and before children come along), and also when comparing wages by title, tenure and education level within a given field.

But no matter how you slice and dice the data, there are very few scenarios in which women on average earn the same as men. Indeed, in its latest analysis of median weekly earnings last year by occupation, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women earned less than men not only in all 20 of the largest occupations for men but also in all 20 of the largest occupations for women.

Among the largest occupations for women, the most egregious pay gaps were among financial managers (women earned 71% of every dollar a man earns), retail salesperson (72%), education and child care administrators (79%), administrative assistants (80%) and managers (81%). The narrowest gap was among cashiers, where women almost have pay parity (98%) with their male colleagues.

Same old (and annoying) story every year

While the overall gender pay gap has been narrowing over time — for example, Equal Pay Day in 2005 was April 19, a full five weeks later than this year’s — the very fact that such a gap exists at all in 2024 is a reminder that employers and society still have work to do in recognizing the value of women’s contributions at work.

“The gender wage gap is a national disgrace,” said Jamila Taylor, IWPR’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Even in professions typically dominated by women, men earn more for doing the same job. Equal pay for equal work has been the law of the land for more than a half-century, yet women still cannot get fair treatment when it comes to employment and earnings. And it’s worse for women of color, who face rampant racial discrimination in the workforce in addition to ongoing pay inequities.”

The good news is that there are now multiple efforts that may over time help reduce the problem. They include an increasing number of state-level pay transparency laws and bans on employers asking job candidates for their salary histories, which can help chronically underpaid women gain more of an equal footing when they apply for new jobs.

There is also now a ban on federal government agencies asking job candidates’ for their salary history and a proposed rule that would prohibit federal contractors from doing the same, as well as requiring them to post in their job ads the pay for given positions.

But Vagins and others in the campaign for equal pay also want to see action at the federal legislative level, supporting two bills: the Salary Transparency Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which have been introduced in the US House and Senate multiple times.

For instance, the Paycheck Fairness Act would, according to Equal Pay Today, “bar retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages; close loopholes that have allowed employers to pay women less than men for the same work … [and] ensure women can receive the same robust remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subjected to discrimination based on race and ethnicity.”

Absent such federal laws requiring all employers to make equal pay more of an imperative, Vagins said, achieving true pay parity for women will be slow in coming.

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