Women still don’t make as much as men for the same work.
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Pay equity is good for everyone.
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Many women still struggle with gender bias at work — and the pandemic has laid bare workload and salary inequities.
Study after study finds women have taken on the lion’s share of household work — and home-schooling kids once schools closed — while still doing their paid jobs. For many women, the only option has been to quit their careers to focus on the children.
For working women who didn’t have that option, pay discrepancies remain a major issue and a deterrent to the nation’s overall economic recovery. Chronically underpaying women for equal — or more — work keeps cash from circulating in the economy, inhibits buying power and requires people to use safety-net services for far longer than if pay were gender-blind.
Let’s look at the stats: For every dollar a white man earns, a white woman earns 79 cents. Black women earn 62 cents and Hispanic women 59 cents. Asian women earn 90 cents for every dollar, but that statistic lumps all Asian women into a single category. Broken out by nationality, Asian American women don’t fare any better than other minority groups, according to the Center for American Progress.
If working women were paid the same as their male counterparts, poverty would fall by half in 36 states, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In Colorado, equal pay would cut the poverty rate from 5.6 percent to 2.8 percent. The state is on the right track thanks to the recent implementation of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
If every woman over the age of 18 were paid the same as her male counterparts, it would add more than $512.6 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product. That’s not pocket change — that’s more money for roads, bridges and infrastructure; it’s more money for national defense, for education.
Closing the pay gap will strengthen the middle class, reduce debt and touch nearly every aspect of the local, state and national economy. It would ease the burden of student loan debt: Women hold 57 percent of student loans and have to work longer to pay off their debts. (And women with graduate degrees earn 69.1 percent of what men with graduate degrees earn.) Consider the labor force shortage of 5 million skilled workers: Is it in business’ best interest to hamstring its workforce by paying qualified workers who happen to be women less money?
And while incarceration rates are dropping, easing the burden of prison expenses for taxpayers, rates are actually increasing for women. No, there aren’t more female criminals; the gender pay gap makes it harder for women to make bail and pay fines and fees required by courts. The system criminalizes poverty — and does it in a way that disproportionately affects women. (Again, no one benefits from bad economic policy. Prisons cost the United States around $75 billion a year.)
And then there’s the “pink tax.” The tariff rate on women’s clothing imported from abroad is 15.1 percent, but is 11.9 percent for men’s clothing. That cost is passed on to consumers; the people getting paid less for the same work also end up paying more for items they need.
It’s time to close the pay gap and provide equal pay for equal work. It benefits us all.