The gender-based wage gap is a serious problem for women and families across the country, and it’s appreciably worse for African American women. Today, we’re reminded of just how much worse. That’s because today is African American women’s Equal Pay Day – the day that marks how far into 2014 those employed full time, year round have had to work in order to catch up with what white, non-Hispanic men were paid in 2013.
You read that right: African American women in this country have to work nearly seven months more than white men to receive the same amount of pay. African American women are paid just 64 cents for every dollar paid to white men – or $18,650 less each year. The loss of that much income is no small matter for women, families, businesses or our economy.
In fact, if the gap were eliminated, an African American woman working full time, year round would have enough money for approximately 147 more weeks of food, 13 more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 21 more months of rent, or 5,368 additional gallons of gas. These necessities would mean a tremendous amount to the more than four million U.S. family households headed by African American women, more than 38 percent of which live in poverty.
It’s almost inconceivable that, at a time when many people think women have achieved equality in the workplace and when women’s income is so critical, a punishing gender- and race-based wage gap persists. But here we are – and there are and will continue to be grave consequences for women, families, businesses and our economy unless members of Congress and employers take concrete action to combat pay discrimination.
One measure that would help greatly is the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963; prohibit retaliation against workers for discussing their salaries; recognize employers with good pay practices; and provide assistance to businesses that need help adopting them. It would create a negotiation skills training program for women and girls and enhance federal agencies’ investigative and enforcement abilities.
The Paycheck Fairness Act has the support of nearly two-thirds of voters and 78 percent of African American voters. And it’s simply long overdue. We know that the gender-based wage gap exists in every corner of the country, and that it has been closing at a rate of less than half a cent per year for more than 50 years. It’s time for federal action.
So on another, especially appalling and unacceptable, Equal Pay Day, tell your members of Congress it’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.