Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mind the Gap --- All the Way to Retirement!

Through the early 1960s, it was common practice for employers to segregate job listings for men and women. In many cases, identical ads were run for each gender – but with a lower pay rate for the job targeting women.

That is, until 1963, when it became illegal to pay women lower wages for the same job through passage of the Equal Pay Act under President Kennedy.

While women have made measurable progress in the workplace since passage of the Act, a severe gap persists. In 1963, women earned 59% of what men took home. Forty seven years later, women now earn 77% of their male counterparts. The loss of 23 cents on the dollar translates to a pay gap of over $10,600 between the median annual earnings of men and women. Over a lifetime of work, this translates to a loss of at least $700,000.

Loss in income not only affects women and their families during working years, but also in retirement because women contribute less to Social Security and other retirement plans when they are paid less. In 2008, the average Social Security retirement benefit for women was 24% less than the average benefit for men.

Equal pay would benefit society as a whole. Studies have found that if women in the workforce earned the same amount as men, family incomes would increase by $4,000 a year and the poverty rate would be cut in half.

The only way the wage gap will be alleviated is to address it head on and acknowledge that it is a problem. Today, as we recognize the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, we must look at what can be done to bridge the gap. Women have made tremendous progress over the last 47 years, but more can and should be done, such as passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12 / S. 182). This Act would strengthen provisions in the Equal Pay Act and create incentives for employers to follow the law. It has already passed in the House last year and has over 40 cosponsors in the Senate.

It’s time for the Senate and President Obama to make this legislation a priority – pass the bill, make it law and close the gap.

- Kelly Stellrecht
  Field & Program Associate
  Elder Economic Security Initiative

More information on the wage gap can be found at the National Women’s Law Center and the American Association of University Women.

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