April 12 is Equal Pay Day

Equal PayTuesday, April 12, 2016, is the national observance of Equal Pay Day, the day when women and men around the country recognize the wage gap between working women and men, and offer remedies to address pay inequity. According to statistics released in 2014 by the United States Census Bureau, women are paid, on average, 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid — a gap of 22 cents.

Here in Delaware, working women do a little better than the national average, paid about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men. That’s hardly a cause for celebration, when women and their families are being shortchanged thousands of dollars a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

In 2009, the number of women in the workforce exceeded the number of men, and more men than women lost jobs. With more families relying on women’s paychecks for their livelihood, the United States must address the wage gap for the sake of American families and their financial stability.
Here are four ways to close the pay gap:

  1. We need to keep affirmative action programs in place to make sure education, jobs and promotion opportunities are open and offered to qualified women.
  2. Employers must examine and correct their pay practices. Employers can get help in examining their pay practices through equal pay self-audit guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  3. Women must stand up for equal pay and for themselves. If a prospective employer cannot show that women and men are paid equally for the job you’re seeking, it makes sense to look elsewhere. Positive signs includes a hiring process that seeks diversity through affirmative action, written pay and benefit policies, job descriptions and evaluation procedures. A union for workers is another good sign. Women in unions earn 35 percent more than women in non-union workplaces. Women who are paid less than men must discuss the problem with their employer. If there’s a union ask their help. If discrimination persists, file a complaint with the Delaware Department of Labor or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  4. Close the pay gap is through federal legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. That’s not a solution popular with employers, but it may be necessary. For employers who continue to pay women less, legal penalties or EEOC action may be the only remedies.

Pay equity is a growing national movement. States around the country are introducing pay equity legislation and women continue to recognize the importance of this legislation. Pay inequity penalizes families especially during times of economic hardship so we must address it when trying to boost the economy. At the rate we are going, the wage gap will not close for another 50 years. Women and their families cannot afford to wait that long!

Wear red to symbolize how far women’s wages are “in the red” compared to men’s wages, and check our calendar for Equal Pay Day events on April 12, co-sponsored by:

  • The American Association of University Women of Delaware
  • The Delaware Commission for Women
  • The League of Women Voters of Delaware
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