Equal Pay Day 2017 is Tuesday, April 4, marking how far into the year that women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Women make up almost half of the workforce, are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children, and are graduating from college at higher rates than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2015, women working full-time, year-round made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

Why?

Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men. Outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature for women in the workplace.

According to IWPR’s research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has for the past fifty years, it will take 42 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity. For women of color, the rate of change is even slower:

  • Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248
  • Black women will wait until 2124for equal pay

wage gap projection by race

IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project tracks the gender wage gap across states, by race/ethnicity and by age. In 13 states, progress on closing the gender wage gap is so slow that a woman born in 2017 will not see equal pay during her working life. If current trends continue, women living in North Dakota, Utah, Louisiana, and Wyoming will not see equal pay until the next century.

Reasons for the gender wage gap are multi-faceted. IWPR’s research shows that, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men, even despite similar skill requirements. Millions of women work in jobs that are seen as “women’s work” and are in fact done disproportionately by women, such as teaching young children, cleaning, serving and caring for elders — essential jobs that, despite requiring physical skill, emotional labor and often, postsecondary education, offer workers low wages and scant benefits.

Women have made tremendous strides during the last few decades by moving into jobs and occupations previously done almost exclusively by men, yet during the last two decades there has been very little further progress in the gender integration of work. In some industries and occupations, like construction, there has been no progress in forty years. This persistent occupational segregation is a primary contributor to the lack of significant progress in closing the wage gap.

Persistent pay inequality can have far-reaching economic consequences. According to an analysis of federal data, equal pay would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half.

Have you ever found yourself discussing equal pay with a wage gap skeptic? Find more research-backed, fact-based information from IWPR:

  • The 80% wage gap statistic is not misleading. Indeed, it is actually a moderate estimate of gender pay inequality. Read and share IWPR’s fact sheet, “Five Ways to Win an Argument about the Gender Wage Gap.”
  • Women tend to work in female-dominated fields, while men tend to work in higher paying male-dominated fields. Why do we value jobs traditionally done by women so much less than those traditionally done by men when they often require comparable skill and effort? Read the Q&A with IWPR Program Director on Employment & Earnings Ariane Hegewisch.
  • Why should we take the gender wage gap seriously? If women were simply paid the same as men who are the same age, had the same level of education, worked the same number of hours, and had the same urban or rural status, poverty among working women would fall by more than half, according to a new analysis IWPR prepared for the Lean In Foundation’s 20 Percent Counts campaign. Learn more at leanin.org/equalpay.

To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

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