Tuesday, March 31 marks this year’s Equal Pay Day, the day that the average woman has finally earned what her male counterpart did in the previous calendar year for the same work. The timing of this day is a stark reminder that 57 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women in the U.S. continue to earn only 82 cents on the dollar for the same work.
While this day marks when women’s pay in the U.S. matches their male counterpart’s on average, when the data is disaggregated by race and ethnicity, many women of color are facing greater inequity. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women working full time make only an average of 62 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. For Native women the comparison is 57 cents, and for Latinas, 54 cents.
It’s no coincidence that almost a year ago today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) in an effort to address some of the many issues that have allowed the pay gap to persist. If passed, the Paycheck Fairness Act would ban retaliation against workers who discuss their wages, make it easier for workers to take part in pay discrimination class actions, stop employers from requiring job candidates to disclose their salary history, and expand the collection of data that is collected from employers by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Since its passage, the bill has seen no action in the Republican-controlled Senate, most of whom oppose the bill on the basis that it could make employers vulnerable to punitive measures for pay discrimination claims. In the vacuum of strong federal guidance, many states have passed their own pay equity laws in the last few years, demonstrating the will for stronger safeguards and also creating a more difficult regulatory environment for companies than if there were a comprehensive federal law on the books.
Why it Matters
While the pay gap within the tech industry is not as large as the national average, it continues to persist, and similarly widens for women of color in tech. According to a study of tech companies conducted by Hired, men are offered higher salaries than women in the same job at the same company 60% of the time.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would also protect or promote the strategies women in tech use to seek out more equitable wages. According to the same Hired report, when women in tech reported finding out about a pay disparity, 69% reported it was after discussing pay with colleagues. The Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens protections for employees who discuss compensation by prohibiting retaliatory measures for doing so.
For women in tech, the wage gap often becomes wider as they progress in their careers. This could be the result of many factors, one of which could be the result of being underpaid early on in their careers and having that inequitable salary history haunt them from job to job; under the Paycheck Fairness Act, there would be a ban on companies requiring the disclosure of salary histories.
Your senators need to know that pay equity is a priority for their constituents. Contact Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and your own state’s senators to let them know that you want to see passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 270)!