Equal Pay is NOT JUST a Women's Issue - It's Everyone's Issue and the Lack of It Affects our Health

by Renata Maniaci, Government Relations Intern

Let me just begin by saying, Happy Equal Pay Day! What is Equal Pay Day you might ask? Equal Pay Day is a public awareness event which symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to be paid what men were paid in 2010. So today, April 12, 2011, after 75 extra days of waged work, the average working woman has finally been paid as much as the average working man received last year. Woo Hoo!

It is a regrettable fact that women still make only 77 cents on every dollar made by men. Additionally, since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, the pay gap has closed by just a miserable half a cent per year, which means if this rate stays the same, we will not reach equal pay for 45 more years, i.e. 2056. In 45 years, I will be 69 years old and might not have as much fight in me as I do today -- so for now, I'm going to keep yelling.

For those of you interested in where I got these numbers or in learning more about the gender pay gap, check out this easy to understand pamphlet from the American Association of University Women titled "The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap" – I'm sure you will be illuminated:


Back to business. All of this talk about pay equity tends to be swept under the rug as a "women's issue" – and only paid lip service by politicians. Why has this inequity persisted for so many years? Because women's work is purposefully less valued in our society and women have less power politically to get more stringent laws against sex-based wage discrimination adopted. Also, powerful business interests that benefit immensely from women's devalued labor can halt legislation and fund conservatives' efforts to blame women themselves for the pay gap.

To return to my theme, I want to stress that pay equity is not just a women's issue! That's right; the average loss of $700,000 over a lifetime of work for a woman with a high school diploma because of the gender pay gap does not only affect her bottom line. This huge loss of lifetime income affects her family's economic security, her children's well-being and future success, her community's economy and the woman's own health.

The middle-class is further weakened by this enormous devaluation of women's work. Even more dramatic, the estimate for lifelong loss due to the gender pay gap jumps to $1.2 million for women with college degrees, and up to $2 million for professional school graduates. These figures are based on research from The WAGE Project, which examined full-time workers' lifetime losses due to the pay gap.

A woman's health is also affected by the absence of the $700,000 that she should have made over her lifetime -- as authors of Health Impact Assessment of Gender Pay Inequity have found. The Human Impact Partners study found that income profoundly affects health, especially premature mortality and longevity. Women making $15,000 a year -- representative of the millions of women in job categories where pay is historically low -- have almost four times the risk of dying before the average life expectancy of those who make $70,000 a year. They have twice the incidence of angina, diabetes, obesity and poor diet.

As women's income increases, the incidence of such illnesses as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, stroke, susceptibility to infection, musculoskeletal disorders and others decrease. Increasing women's incomes reduces sick days, premature mortality, early childbirth and depression. The absence of strong pay equity laws and workers' inability to purchase health insurance result in a myriad of poor outcomes for women and their children. Additionally, there are direct correlations between income and stress, and income-related stress affects parenting behaviors.

These are very clear and compelling arguments indicating that we must take effective steps soon to improve wages for women in low-status/low-paying jobs and address the persistent wage gap of 23 cents that cheats everyone. What will you do to help erase the gender wage gap?

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Comment from: anita [Member] Email
Thank you for writing this post! It's great. We included it in the MomsRising blog-a-thon for fair pay: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/dont-shortchange-our-moms-daughters-and-families-a-blog-a-thon-for-fair-pay-day/

Thanks again!
04/12/11 @ 18:42
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Comment from: letsbefair [Member] Email
Change comes with the times.


I encourage all folks to take a gander at this chart. It maps women's pay as a percentage of men's pay, controlling for age.

If you don't feel like looking, what it tells us is that in 2009, women 16-24 earned 93% of what men of the same age earned. From 25-34 years old, that percentage decreases only to 89%. When women over 34 are considered, it drops to about 80% - this statistic for all women, so the "77%" isn't quite up to date, one might suppose. (But then, we should consider statistical significance, and really then the two aren't so different.)

It's important to note, however, that this study seems to control for very little. It uses the median weekly income, so it attempts to be insensitive to outliers. Other than though, it pays little heed to hours worked, maternity/paternity leave, overtime worked, factors such as experience, etc.

The point is: the "wage gap" will probably never truly be closed because of the different career paths men and women tend to lead. This does NOT, however, come necessarily as a result of discrimination, but rather numerous other factors. It is noteworthy, however, that the "wage gap" is essentially closing generationally. Other studies have found that single, childless female urban workers in their 20's actually earn 8% more than men per year.
04/12/11 @ 21:21
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Comment from: letsbefair [Member] Email
Note: even though I note that 80% and 77% (actually, it should say 81%) aren't that different, I certainly feel that NOW's publications should reflect the official numbers put out by the government, not the common science ones. Thanks.
04/12/11 @ 21:23
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Comment from: Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director [Member] Email
@letsbefair: You are repeating the same old tired myths propogated by those on the right.

The truth about the wage gap is as NOW has already stated. We quote the same numbers as the experts working on this issue. Much of this data comes from government sources.

If anyone is interested in the numbers and analysis that tell the real story, take a look at the AAUW report provided above, in the post.

You can also go here:

And here:
04/13/11 @ 10:31
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Comment from: Renata Maniaci, Government Relations Intern [Member] Email
Thanks Lisa, you beat me to responding.

@letsbefair - The figures that are used in the article are in fact put out by the government, as well as by the "science ones" you mentioned above depending on the statistic. It is true that none of the firgues published ever seem to be the same, but that is because different studies control for different things, and of course the year, the occupation, the location, AND the woman's personal life decisions, etc. all change the numbers of the results.

What we can, I'm sure, agree on is that there is a disparity, a gender pay gap, that is proven by even the most controlled of studies - and that our entire nation would benefit if pay equity was the norm and not the exception.
04/13/11 @ 15:35
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Comment from: dyoung [Member] Email
I am outraged to have learned through my father, who is a big NOW supporter, that a famous radio personality here in the DFW, TX area went on the air stating that women do not deserve to be paid as much as men. What makes this situation worse is that the radio personality is a woman herself. She stated that a man should make more because he is the provider and that she would rather be "taken care of". Someone in her position should be promoting equality for women. I have a hard enough time living in an area where most of the men still refer to us as "lil' ladies" and the majority of the women are either too afraid or too lazy to stand up and say that this demeaning behavior needs to stop and that it especially needs to stop being dressed up as "SOUTHERN CHARM" that I don't need a female radio dj infecting the minds of the young women & men who listen to them. Grr!! Sorry Ladies I had I to get it out of my system. My dad has already written a complaint to the radio show & I am going to do the same.
04/14/11 @ 16:38
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Comment from: cabaret voltaire [Visitor]
I'm a male college student who works as a waiter. I'm paid the same hourly wage as my female co-workers but when there's heavy lifting or a delivery truck needs unloading, I'm lugging boxes while the women take cigarette breaks. I can't think of any job responsibilities I'm allowed to avoid because I'm a man. If the Paycheck Fairness Act is passed, would the law protect my rights as a worker or would it only apply to women?
04/14/11 @ 16:53
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Comment from: cabaret voltaire [Visitor]
@ Lisa --

Not all women agree with you. This is why NOW and other feminist groups need to stop suggesting they speak for all women. Whats your opinion on women who don't agree with you? Are they wrong? misinformed? or victimized by the right wing 'patriarchy'? Are they victims, dumb, oblivious, or naive? I say none of the above. I tend to agree with much of what they believe. Luckily not all women think the same.


'There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap'
04/14/11 @ 17:05
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Comment from: letsbefair [Member] Email
I'm sorry, Lisa, but I'm more prone to trust an analysis made by the government that does not have a specific agenda than one of an organization that does.

I'm not saying there is no pay gap, but the reasons for that pay gap are perfectly well up for dispute. It's true, as the AAUW article suggests, that mothers who return to the workforce face a "motherhood" penalty, even though it's more simply a penalty based on liability of the worker. If an employee takes time off, they have not advanced. I don't think, in particular, this speaks to any discrimination faced by women. I don't ordinarily throw out the "asking for special treatment for women" phrase, but this is one case where it is applicable. Basically, if an employee is more likely to take work off (say to take care of a sick kid), then they will probably earn less because the employer is compensating for the risk. And frankly, with all the social factors/influence, mothers are more likely to take work off than fathers.

@Renata - I think you'll find by the fact that pay disparity is greater than a supermajority by just about all statistics that pay equity IS the norm, and not the exception. These statistics only show averages or medians, so >75% does not showcase that there are probably female workers who earn >100% of what their male counterparts work, and probably female workers who earn <50% of what their male counterparts work.

I don't know the exact numbers, but I wish you would quit treating women as if they are paid as a uniform group. They aren't. Renata acknowledges this when she says that statistics are different that control for different things. For instance, the one I mentioned above that saw women earning 8% more than men.

And @Lisa, I'm really disappointed in your response. Instead of responding to the points I raised, you basically said, "You're wrong because you're right wing." For your reference, I am not really right wing. Nor am I left wing. I'm taking a very balanced analysis of the statistics.

Think about this. In a capitalist system, you do everything to earn yourself the most money possible. If you knew you could hire women and pay them ~75% of what you would pay male employees, you would only hire women. If you pay a standard of $10 an hour, then you're saving $2.50/hour per employee. For 10 employees that work 40 hours a week, that's 25 x 40 = $1,000 per week. Multiply by 50 work weeks, and you save yourself and your business $50,000 a year. Yet we don't have a work force that is predominantly female, and if we did, demand would respond to this and women would start being paid more.

Yes, it's theoretical, but spend some time actually thinking about this scenario. No business ANYWHERE is gonna turn down the prospect of $50,000 more a year. Yet women aren't the predominant work force. Why? Because there is more risk involved in hiring women. It's not discriminatory, it's inherent to the system. Ultimately, women - like men - must make a choice: family or career?

If they choose career, they stand the same chances as a man in the work world. If they choose family, they don't. There's no shame in choosing family, but it's impossible to have both. Women who don't choose family over career are often more successful than their male counterparts (see the aforementioned "8%" study).

Gender roles have been fairly complementary for a long time. Now I don't think there's any reason women should stay home or men should be working. Both are social pressures that are silly. We are a more advanced society than that.

Still, by the way that our system is set up, workers will always be punished for taking time off for family. Also a gender that gravitates toward more comfortable work conditions is likely to sacrifice pay.

In the end, whether or not you buy any of this is irrelevant. It might be only partially true, or completely, or even only slightly. But just that factors exist other than discrimination in determining pay by gender is enough to show that the analyses purported by the article are inherently flawed. Saying, "women are paid less; it's cause of discrimination" is silly. "Woman," as a social and cultural identity, is more complex than that.
04/14/11 @ 20:27
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Comment from: letsbefair [Member] Email
*It's impossible to have both IN EQUITY. That's how that should have read.

Now ask yourself: what was the point of this person typing all that garbage out and sending it? Is it because letsbefair hates women? Is it because letsbefair thinks women should be paid less?

The answer to both is no. I think men and women should be paid fairly. For some women, that means equally. For some men, that means equally. For others, unfortunately, it means unequally, based on their choices both as an employee and as a person.

This war seems to be one that targets both biology and society. I think it's fair that women needn't stay home, but if that's their choice, it comes both as one of instinct and one instilled in them by society. We can't adjust our system to artificially pay women more for committing certain unstable behaviors. I'm the first to say that Capitalism has its flaws, hence I'm using it only to explain a general trend in general terms, rather than a specific trend in specific terms. (The "8%" trend is a more specific one, I mean.)

The gender wage gap war is slated against the woman's body, and the woman's choices and ultimately the woman. Confused how I got there? Don't be. The woman's body carries the children that causes them to be paid less. The woman's choices and commitment to the children also causes that. Therefore, NOW's war is actually against the biology and societal aspects of what it means to be a woman to a large portion of women.
04/14/11 @ 20:40
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Comment from: Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director [Member] Email
@letsbefair: I would never suggest something as simple as, you hate women, or you think they should be paid less (though you do seem to be making a case that it's ok for businesses to do this if they think they are or will be losing money due to a female employee's current or potential childbearing).

Instead, based on the amount of time you and others like you spend posting comments to this blog, I would ask: Are you trying to get NOW and other groups, like AAUW, IWPR, NCPE, NWLC, etc, to throw up our hands, admit that you're right, and stop working on pay equity issues? Not going to happen.

Or maybe you're just trying to discredit NOW on it's own blog? Trying to sway the minds of people who come here? I find that playing "gotcha" with NOW is a popular practice for those who disagree with us. Do you and other commenters like you have a mission beyond playing "gotcha"? Why not start your own org or blog and promote your positions that way? I would never go on to the website of an opponent and post in their comments section in the hopes of . . . what? I don't know. But that's just me.
04/15/11 @ 11:35
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Comment from: cabaret voltaire [Visitor]
Lisa Bennett writes --

"Why not start your own org or blog and promote your positions that way? I would never go on to the website of an opponent and post in their comments section in the hopes of . . . what? I don't know. But that's just me."

I would think debate is healthy because it gives people the opportunity to learn about other peoples opinions and perspective. I have always respected NOW's blog because you don't moderate / censor comments like other feminist sites. (Feministing)

04/15/11 @ 15:58
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Comment from: glad_to_be_here [Member]
@cabaret voltaire:

When I was a female college student, I often worked in the areas of food service where "heavy lifting" was required. These positions offered $2 more per hour. The job description was clearly defined to require the ability to lift 50lbs. I loved it. It was very fun. Lugging stuff is way more relaxing to me than dealing with customers. Not everyone liked it. Those who didn't often worked in other positions unless they really wanted the extra $2. I'm sorry you work in a gender-stereotyped workplace. It doesn't sound very fun for you.
06/14/11 @ 03:17
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Comment from: sallymoore [Member] Email
I am surprised this had not been posted yet.


This is a report commissioned by the United States Department of Labor to clarify the original report done thirty years ago. It’s titled “An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women”. The first paragraph says:
“ … raw wage gap (figures) continues to be used in misleading ways to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap. The purpose of this report is to identify the reasons that explain the wage gap in order to more fully inform policymakers and the public.”

It then goes on to list the reasons as to why women wages are lower compared with men as seen in the raw wage figures.

“A greater percentage of women than men tend to work part-time. Part-time work tends to pay less than full-time work.”

“A greater percentage of women than men tend to leave the labor force for child birth, child care and elder care. Some of the wage gap is explained by the percentage of women who were not in the labor force during previous years, the age of women, and the number of children in the home.”

“Women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” workplace policies more than men.”

“ Some of the wage gap is explained by industry and occupation, particularly, the percentage of women who work in the industry and occupation.”

These are some of the examples given. The conclusion:

“Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

Again this is from the Department of Labor. The same Department that produced the Wage Gap studies quoted for the past 30 years. Is there a wage gap between women and men? Yes. Is it because of whole sale, systematic, organized discrimination against women? No.
If a company could pay a woman $0.22 less and hour then a man, why would they ever want to hire a man? Is that not the reason so many jobs are going over sea’s, to pay less.
12/18/11 @ 01:42
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