WASHINGTON — April 4 is the symbolic day when women “celebrate” Equal Pay Day, when women’s salaries finally catch up to men’s from the year prior. Women working full time year-round are paid 80 cents to men’s dollar.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is recognizing the day, together with its 170,000 members and supporters, by focusing on political, business, and personal actions that could be taken to close the pervasive gender pay gap that negatively impacts women, families, and the American economy.
Members of Congress announced steps to close the pay gap by reintroducing vital legislation, including the Paycheck Fairness Act. Longtime equal pay champion Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is leading the charge in the House, while Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is taking up the mantle in the Senate (it had been former Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) bill in the 114th Congress). The measure provides a much-needed, first-ever update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, bringing the law’s principles and practices in line with the nation’s other civil rights laws.
The Paycheck Fairness Act takes meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, bars retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages, and prohibits employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay so that pay discrimination doesn’t follow women from job to job. The rebuilding of the American middle class begins and ends with good-paying jobs, but that cannot happen if women continue to earn less than men doing the same work.
“Equal pay is an issue whose time has come,” said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations and advocacy at AAUW. “If nothing is done to address it, the pay gap won’t close in our lifetimes. Women can’t continue to rely on winning the boss or geography lottery when it comes to pay equity. If America wants to truly be a global economic superpower, we must close the pay gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a critical step in that direction.”
Not ones to simply wait for Congress to catch up, AAUW members and supporters are fighting to end the pay gap in their own backyards. To date, 40 states have filed or prefiled equal pay legislation in their respective 2017 legislative sessions, compared with 36 states in all of 2016. This year, half of the 40 state bills also focus on banning asking for salary history in the job application process. It remains to be seen if states can break last year’s record of passing six equal pay laws (in red, blue, and purple states).
AAUW’s advocacy work to close the gender pay gap is driven by its own research. AAUW’s report The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap featured groundbreaking research on the pay gap and is now available in Spanish. It’s important to note that 80 cents doesn’t tell the whole story, especially for many women of color who have to continue working past April 4 in order for their salaries to catch up. Black women must work until July 31, Native American women until September 25, and Latinas work almost an extra year, until October 31. Mothers also face a special motherhood penalty and have to work until May 23 just to catch up.
AAUW also provides tools for women to use in addressing the pay gap in their own lives. To date, AAUW salary negotiation workshops have trained more than 18,000 people in techniques designed to empower women with the skills and confidence to successfully negotiate their salary and benefits packages. The AAUW Work Smart program has also teamed up with nine cities (and counting) to offer free salary negotiation workshops to their residents.
“AAUW is working hard on many fronts to close the gender pay gap, and one of those ways is empowering women to know their worth and how to negotiate for it,” said Jesse Rauch, senior program manager at AAUW. “We know you can’t negotiate your way around discrimination but with AAUW salary negotiation workshops, women can take a critical step toward chipping away at their own personal pay gap.”
Businesses also have a stake in the fight for pay equity. For Equal Pay Day, AAUW is partnering with LUNA to help raise awareness for equal pay. LUNA is offering a 20 percent discount on all LUNA Bars sold on Lunabar.com from April 4 to April 11 as part of Lean In’s #20PercentCounts campaign. LUNA’s support will sponsor 100 AAUW salary negotiation workshops across the country in 2017.
“There’s no silver bullet to closing the pay gap,” noted Maatz. “But if we do nothing, the gap won’t close for more than 100 years. It is time for us to put aside politics and do what is right for working women and their families. The pay gap not only hurts them, it also hurts our economy.”
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and 800 college and university partners. Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, our members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. Learn more and join us at www.aauw.org.