Blog of Rights

The Fight for Equal Pay is Not Over

By Claire O'Brien, Washington Legislative Office & Claire O'Brien, Washington Legislative Office at 1:46pm

Well I guess this means the battle’s won, right? According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post:

The number of women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than it is for men. Nationwide, about one in 18 women working full time earned $100,000 or more in 2009, a jump of 14 percent over two years, according to new census figures. In contrast, one in seven men made that much, up just 4 percent. The legions of higher-income women have grown even faster in the Washington region, further burnishing its reputation as a land of opportunity for ambitious professional women.

Whew! Everyone can go home, now — clearly, the fight for pay equity is over. Good job, everyone, it was a fight well-fought.

But wait — while it’s certainly good news that the number of women earning high salaries is on the rise, we have to look more closely at the numbers for a more accurate picture. One in 18 women earned more than $100,000 in 2009 — that’s only about 6 percent of women in the workforce. Compare that to the approximately 14 percent of men who are making six figures, and suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a victory — in fact, it raises even more questions, because as the Post article states, women now outnumber men in at almost every level of higher education: "They get more master's degrees and more PhDs. Most law school students are women, as are almost half of all medical students."

So, more women than men are earning advanced degrees and entering into high-paying fields, but a higher percentage of men are earning more than six figures? Something doesn’t add up.

And while it’s wonderful that the number of women earning high salaries is on the uptick, those women still consistently make less than their male coworkers. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2009, women in some of the highest paying occupations, including chief executives, lawyers, doctors and surgeons, made less than men doing the same work. Another report, released the same day as the Washington Post story, reveals a huge pay gap between women and men chief executives in the New York City nonprofit world. Even this small, albeit high-earning, slice of the American economy reveals that the wage gap is alive and well and denying women fair pay. And for 94 percent of women who don’t pull in salaries over $100,000, the wage gap is similarly pervasive and damaging. Across the spectrum of jobs and salaries, women consistently earn less than men, with women, on average, bringing home 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Something needs to be done to achieve equality to the workplace.

Congress has a chance to make a real stride forward in the fight for paycheck equality: the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act would provide a much needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and give employees the legal tools they need to finally close the wage gap. Last year, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House, with bipartisan support, and is now primed for action in the Senate.

Let your Senators know that we need the Paycheck Fairness Act to pass to ensure that women bring home the pay they rightfully earn. The fight for equal pay for equal work isn’t over yet, but the Paycheck Fairness Act will bring us closer to the goal.

Statistics image