Equal Pay Day marks continued gap for women

Guest Editorial

The American Association of University Women Iron Mountain-Kingsford Branch today will observe National Equal Pay Day, when women’s wages catch up with what men’s wages were for the previous year.

In 2015, U.S. women working full-time, year-round were paid just 80 percent of U.S. men’s median earnings — a gap of 20 percent. While a portion of this gap can be explained by various factors, an apples-to-apples comparison looking at workers one year out of college and controlling for factors known to affect earnings — such as major, occupation and hours worked — reveals there is still an unexplainable 7 percent gender pay gap. Despite this persistent gap, the Equal Pay Act has not been updated since 1963.

Data gathered in 2015, the most current available, ranks Michigan 43rd nationally in the pay gap at 74 cents to the dollar in pay equity. (“The Simple Truth,” AAUW, 2017). On a more local level, our Congressional District ranks 11th among 14 districts in Michigan at 72.1 percent on the dollar.

AAUW’s annual publication, “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, Spring 2017 Edition” states the following:

“In 2015, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent (Proctor et al., 2016). The gap has narrowed since 1960, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate.

“At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.

“The gender pay gap has lifelong financial effects. For one, it contributes directly to women’s poverty. In 2015, 14 percent of American women ages 18-64 were living below the federal poverty level, compared with 11 percent of men. For ages 65 and older, 10 percent of women and 7 percent of men were living in poverty (Proctor et al., 2016). Eliminating the gender pay gap by increasing women’s levels of pay to those of their male counterparts could cut the poverty rate for working women in half (Hartmann et al., 2014).

“Even after women leave the workforce, the pay gap follows them. Because women typically are paid less than men during working years, when women retire they receive less income from Social Security, pensions, and other sources than do retired men (Fischer & Hayes, 2013). Other benefits such as disability and life insurance are also smaller for women, because these benefits usually are based on earnings.

“The impact of the pay gap has also deepened in recent years as a result of changes in family structure. Between 1967 and 2012, the proportion of mothers bringing home at least a quarter of the family’s earnings rose from less than a third (28 percent) to nearly two-thirds (63 percent). Today, 40 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are their families’ primary or sole breadwinners (Glynn, 2014). As families increasingly rely on women’s wages to make ends meet, the gender pay gap directly affects men and children as well.”

AAUW Iron Mountain-Kingsford Branch supports the organization’s national mission through community service and local scholarships to attend two- and four-year colleges or universities.

The AAUW Book Sale, its biggest annual fundraiser, will be Thursday and Friday at Midtown Mall in Iron Mountain. For more information, contact Executive Officer Jan VanGasse at 906-396-2747.