theSkimm's Guide to Equal Pay

equal pay

The story

You keep hearing the phrase 'gender pay gap.' Welcome to the debate over equal pay.

History lesson please.

The fight for women to have the same size paychecks as men picked up steam during WWI and WWII. Because while the dudes were at war, women took factory jobs that were usually reserved for the XY chromosome crowd. Think: "A League of Their Own", but without the baseball uniforms. This was one of the first times the country saw a large group of women doing the same jobs as men...and getting paid less for it.

Is that legal?

Not anymore, technically. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay men and women different salaries for similar work. But there were a lot of loopholes. Then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on race, national origin, religion, or…yup…sex. Both seemed like one giant leap for womankind...except here we are in 2019 and the wage gap still exists.

Give me the opinions.

There are 'we heart equal pay' supporters, who say the fight is a key part of the equal rights movement. There are 'equal schmequal' opponents, who say women aren’t paid unfairly, they just tend to work in jobs that pay less. And there are people in between, who say women deserve equal pay, but they should focus on working for a raise and not asking Uncle Sam for legislation.

Why have I been hearing a lot about this?

Because the equal pay debate has played out in a very public way in recent years. Plus the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up – the Hollywood initiative pushing for gender parity across industries and raising money to help victims of sexual harassment – have put an even brighter spotlight on the issue. See: this and this. And has led women to be more open about their salary negotiations. Hi, Dr. Meredith Grey.

Are things equally bad for all women?

Nope. They're even worse for some minorities. Especially black and Hispanic women. On average, women make about 80 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. Let's break that down: white women make 79 cents for every dollar a white man makes. For Asian women that number is 87 cents. But for black women, it's 63 cents. And for Hispanic women it's 54 cents.

Isn't there a day dedicated to all this?

Yes. Back in the '90s, the National Committee on Pay Equity (yes, it exists) decided to stop talking about the gender pay gap, and actually show people how bad it is. Enter: Equal Pay Day. It marks how far into the year women have to work (on average) to earn what men earned in the year prior. The next Equal Pay Day is April 2nd.


The most recent attempt to close the gap – legislation called the Paycheck Fairness Act – fell a few votes short of passing in the Senate in 2014. Translation: the debate over equal pay is far from over.

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