If you’ve been glued to your favorite feminist blogs and outlets, then you know that Tuesday, April 12 was Equal Pay Day. This represents the day that women’s earnings catch up to men’s earnings. Well, for white women. White women are paid 78%, that is 78¢ to a $1, of man’s salary, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The wage gap increases for women of color as African Americans (63%), Latinas (54%), and American Indians and Alaska Natives (59%) earn disproportionately less than white men. For Asian American women (90%), it is important to note their diversity as various ethnicities face bigger wage gaps than white women and men of the same ethnicity. Other points of intersectionality increase the wage disparity as well. As women get older and gain more advanced degrees, the wage gap increases in comparison to their male counterparts. Not to mention gendered earnings differ by state. Let’s not forget that the gender wage gap also affects trans women, whose gender identities are marginalized in the workplace and overlooked on Equal Pay Day.
The day after Equal Pay Day, Wellesley Centers for Women and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Wellesley College held the panel “Equal Pay Day: Where Do Women Stand? What Are the Next Steps” to further discuss the gendered economic disparity. Jacqueline Cooke, the Regional Administrator for the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, discussed the wage gap on a national level. Jacqueline spoke about the efforts of President Obama’s administration through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, National Equal Pay Task Force, and the now proposed Paycheck Fairness Act. She cited that reasons for the wage gap stem from occupational segregation creating more value around male-dominated fields, gender stereotypes pervading the workplace, and unconscious bias influencing gendered salaries.
Jill Ashton, Director of Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, explained efforts on the state level. As the Commission works to empower women across Massachusetts, she pushes for new state legislation that redefines the compensation scale, promotes salary transparency, and prohibits disclosure of past wages so that women can advocate for a fair wage despite previous discrimination.
MaryRose Mazzola, Executive Director at Boston Women’s Workforce Council, described city efforts to combat wage inequality through 100% Talent Compact. The program uses research to close the gap by collecting data from local companies, suggesting necessary steps to remediate the disparity, and publishing the data to expose the reality of gender wage gap in the city. In addition to this research, the Council also partners with AAUW to provide free salary negotiation workshops for women to advocate for a fair salary.
Fellow panelist and Talent Compact employer at HUB International Mim Minichiello reaffirmed the importance of the Council’s program for companies and women’s salaries. As she mentioned in her Insights article “Women in Leadership: Still More To Do,” “leaders with diverse backgrounds often translates to financial success,” another reason “to ensure that women are positioned for success.”
So what does all of this means? We must acknowledge that the intersectional identities of women affect their economic empowerment. Jill mentioned on the panel that if we were to mark Equal Pay Day for black and Latina women, it would be in July and October. This disproportionately affects the economic security of women. We must take action. Sign a petition. Learn and encourage other women to negotiate their salary. Take steps to change office culture. And more. But don’t wait until 2059 to act.