Benefits & Compensation News

The road to equal pay: 50 years down, 44 to go

June marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which was supposed to end the wage disparities between men and women. But half a century later, the law’s implementation still has a long way to go.

In fact, Dr. Heidi Hartmann, President of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), remarked in an IWPR press release, “We might be living in space by the time women earn the same as men.”

IWPR’s researchers have projected that at the current rate of progress, the pay gap likely won’t close until 2057 — 44 years from now.

The IWPR also found that the pay gap actually increased for full-time workers in 2012. In 2011, women’s median weekly earnings were 82.8% of men’s median weekly earnings. But in 2012, that percentage dropped to 80.9%.

And according to the DOL’s first quarter earnings data for 2013, a pay gap currently exists within all races and ages, meaning the average male of any race or age makes more money than the average female of the same race or age.

It’s also worth noting this inequality isn’t simply due to a difference in men and women’s career choices. Multiple studies have found gender-based wage differences exist within occupations, even among doctors and lawyers, and especially in male-dominated occupations, such as construction and engineering.

The long-term effects of these disparities are perhaps the most jaw-dropping. In 2010, the average working woman earned 77 cents for every dollar a man would’ve earned in the same job.

A paper from The White House Council of Women and Girls put that into perspective: If 2010’s 23-cent pay gap were to remain unchanged, a woman who enters the workforce and continues to work full-time will have missed out on $389,300 by the time she’s 65.

Small steps forward

Despite the prevalence of male-favored wages, there’s at least one area in which women earn more than men. Based on 2010 census data compiled by Bloomberg, female personal care and service workers earned an extra two cents on the dollar compared to their male co-workers.

And in recent years, the DOL has increased its efforts in educating employers and employees of their rights and responsibilities under the Equal Pay Act.

In one of its recent articles, the DOL expressed its determination to finally overcome the inequality: “Here at the Department of Labor we don’t plan to just sit back and wait five more decades. We are working to give women the tools they need today to know their worth.”

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