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Paycheck Fairness Act is a big step toward the nation’s economic recovery

Equal Pay Day symbolizes the point in the next year to which a woman must work, on average, to achieve pay equity with men. Put in more concrete terms, to achieve pay equity, women had to work all of 2010 plus almost four extra months, from January to April 12, 2011, to match men’s earnings during the 12 months of 2010.

Women have made remarkable strides in education during the past three decades, but these gains have yet to translate into full pay equity — even for college-educated women who work full time. For the entire full-time U.S. workforce, during 2007, a typical woman earned $35,745 compared with $46,367 for a typical man, a pay difference of $10,622. (In Arizona, these figures were $34,556 for a typical woman and $41,524 for a typical man, or nearly $7,000 less.) On average, the pay gap of nearly $11,000 a year means $430,000 in lost earnings over a woman’s lifetime. That translates to months of food bills, mortgage payments, rent, utilities, and thousands of gallons of gas lost to American families at a time when they’re struggling and the economy desperately needs their consumer spending.

Equal pay for women is critical to families’ economic security and our nation’s economic recovery.

Women’s wages are essential to putting food on families’ tables and keeping a roof over their heads. For the first time, American women make up roughly half of the nation’s workforce: nearly four in 10 mothers are primary breadwinners in their households and nearly two-thirds are significant earners. Women should be able to bring home everything they have rightfully earned. Forward-looking employers recognize that eliminating pay differentials makes good business sense and that pay equity can help with competitiveness, worker retention and productivity. Pay adjustments would cost no more than 3.7 percent of hourly wage expenses.

Pay equity is a family issue. Nationally, working families lose $200 billion in income annually due to the wage gap between men and women. If married women were paid comparably to men, they would see nearly a 6 percent rise in their families’ income and their families’ poverty rates would fall from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent. Pay equity would help workers become self-sufficient and reduce their reliance on government assistance programs.  A fact sheet of the National Committee on Pay Equity reports a recent study which found that nearly 40 percent of poor working women could leave welfare programs if they were to receive pay equity increases. Pay equity would bring great savings to tax payers at a minimal cost to businesses.

The wage gap has long term effects on women’s economic security. Women are more likely than men to enter poverty in old age for several reasons. Pay discrepancies continue into retirement when women, with a lifetime of lower wages, have less income to save for retirement and less income that counts in a Social Security or pension benefit formula. Women’s life expectancy is approaching 86 years, which means they outlive men by an average of three years. As a result they will have to stretch their retirement savings — which are less to begin with — over a longer period of time. The median income of older women is almost half of what it is for older men.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was passed with bipartisan support last year in the U.S. House, but stalled in the Senate. This proposed legislation would improve the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by providing important legal methods for employees to address the wage gap.

Please contact your elected officials to tell them to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. Its passage will result in a financial benefit to women workers in particular as well as to taxpayers and to the economy as a whole.

— Bonnie Boyce-Wilson is the former public policy chair of the American Association of University Women of Arizona and president of the League of Women Voters, Northwest Maricopa County.

4 comments

  1. No legislation yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action, not diversity, not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission….. Nor would the Paycheck Fairness Act work.

    That’s because pay-equity advocates, at no small financial cost to taxpayers and the economy, continue to overlook the effects of this female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If more women are staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they’re supported by their husband.

    Both feminists and the media miss ignore what this obviously implies: If millions of wives are able to accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives are able to accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study by Cristina Odone for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 per cent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time.” http://bit.ly/ihc0tl), take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/45ecy7p) — all of which lower women’s average pay. They are able to do this because they are supported by a husband who must earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike women, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

    See “A Response to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at http://tinyurl.com/pvbrcu

    By the way, the next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020. The year 2020 is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone. See http://blog.american.com/?p=30031

  2. While the above comment makes a point about married women, the sad fact is that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. There are a lot of single working moms out there who are totally on their own. These women need/deserve/ have a right to equal pay to raise their family. There is not always a responsible father who takes care of his financial obligation to the children he co-created. I know far too many educated single working moms who struggle in a way I rarely see men struggle after divorce. If a couple makes a choice to have the wife stay at home and raise kids, then she is automatically screwed, she will have no work history if there is a divorce a few years down the road, so her earning potential those first few years is generally very low. I’ve seen this happen more times than I can count.
    Equal work, equal pay! It’s a no-brainer.
    How is this even an issue at this point???

  3. It saddens me as a woman to know that we are still fighting this fight. Equal pay for equal work and skill level should be a given, and not based off of sex. Many who have commented or written articles about this bill seem to think that because a woman is married, it should factor in to her pay. I do not see the fairness in this thought process as she may be the one supporting the family. Even if she isn’t the one bringing home the majority income, I don’t understand how it can be a factor in what someone is paid. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a woman to be single well into her 30’s or 40’s, maybe even for life. I don’t think someone’s lifestyle or home life situation should be allowed to be a contributing factor in what they do or do not get paid. This bill would make employers pay fairly off of what really matters when hiring someone to do a job. They would be paid the same based off of training, education, and experience. This is all that should be considered when deciding pay, and not their sex. I cannot understand why we are continually stalling this Bill, and why, as a country that prides itself on equality and freedom, we can’t seem to figure this one out. Let’s pass this Bill and move on to the important stuff this country needs to worry about!

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