National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

From Seattle to New York City, Women and Families Need Action on Fair Pay

April 10, 2013 | Workplace Fairness

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

It's that time of year again. A time when those of us who are committed to achieving equality for women are reminded of the work left to do. That's because, this week, we recognize Equal Pay Day -- the day that marks how far into the new year women have to work to catch up with men's wages from the previous year. And this year, it falls just two months before the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

Despite the Equal Pay Act and tremendous advances for women since it became law, women and families across the country still suffer from a punishing gender-based wage gap that results in thousands of dollars in lost income each year. According to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the National Partnership for Women & Families, the wage gap persists in every corner of the country, in all 50 states and in the 50 largest metropolitan areas - with serious consequences for families and our economy.

The Seattle area has the dubious distinction of having the largest wage gap of the country's major metropolitan areas. Women there are paid just 73 cents for every dollar paid to men, which means they lose more than $16,000 annually due to the wage gap. On the opposite side of the country, in the world-class city of New York, women are still paid just 85 cents for every dollar paid to men, or more than $8,000 less each year. And our findings show the same punishing trend everywhere in between.

If you ask women what thousands of extra dollars each year would mean for them and their families, the effects of the wage gap become clear -- and they add up over time. Whether it's basic necessities like food, rent, mortgage payments and gas, or college and retirement savings, the wage gap has real costs and consequences for women, families, our communities and the economy.

According to our analysis, eliminating the wage gap would mean that women in San Francisco could buy food for an additional year and five months. Chicago's working women could afford more than 2,700 gallons of gas. And women employed full time in Boston could afford a year's worth of rent. These basic necessities are especially important for the more than 15 million U.S. households headed by women, 31 percent of which fall below the poverty line.

In a country that claims to value fairness and prides itself on giving everyone a real chance to provide for their families, we simply must take action to close the wage gap. Fortunately, there are champions and leaders in Congress who are ready to help do just that.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is modest, reasonable legislation that would go a long way toward eliminating the wage gap. It would strengthen the Equal Pay Act, prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss salary information with their co-workers, help women fight discrimination, and establish stronger workplace protections for women. It has been introduced again this Congress, and it should be a priority for any lawmaker that values America's families and equality.

The Paycheck Fairness Act should pass this year. It has widespread public support and the nation is tired of partisan politics and special interests blocking the progress we need. As we await federal action, local and state lawmakers, too, can take action to close the wage gap.

And President Obama can do more. He has been a vocal supporter of fair pay and the Paycheck Fairness Act. But he also can -- and should -- set an example for the nation's employers by issuing an executive order that would ensure that federal contractors cannot retaliate against workers who discuss pay. That would help to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to support unlawful pay discrimination.

From Seattle to New York City -- and everywhere in between -- women and their families have been suffering for too long. This Equal Pay Day, as we prepare to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, let's remember how far we have to go to see real equality for women and press for progress. Action to advance fair pay is long overdue.


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