Equal Pay Day Should Be January First

What do the days March 24, June 4, August 3, and October 21st mark? These are the Equal Pay Days for women, mothers, and Black and Latinx women, respectively. Equal Pay Day means that it takes from January 1, 2020 to March 24, 2021 for women in the labor force to earn what a man earned in 2020. So, women are essentially working almost 4 months for free. Since women are the primary earners in about half of all families, this hurts families, putting more of them into poverty. Then there is the motherhood penalty, which translates to a mother taking over a year and half to earn what a man earns in a year. Over the last 20 years women have had an increase in educational level and experience yet the motherhood penalty has increased, not decreased. While mothers earn less than fathers, fathers in fact earn more than men without children. But these mothers, not the fathers, are doing the majority of the childcare. Even women physicians with a male spouse/partner spend 8.5 more hours/week on childcare and domestic work than their male partner. More free work! How can we possibly justify the motherhood penalty? Race compounds the gender pay inequity. Black and Latinx women work 19 months and almost 22 months respectively to earn what a man earns in 12 months.

In 1963 the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended to ensure equal pay for equal work for women; 58 years later we still can’t meet this basic level of fair labor practice! At the pace we are closing the gender pay gap women will achieve pay equity in 2059— making it a reality for our great grandchildren, maybe our grandchildren. Let’s not wait another 48 years or even longer for minority women. All companies need to transparently examine their pay and correct the existing inequalities. Let’s start having equal pay at hiring and clarity on promotion and bonus payments. These should not depend on negotiation skills or the hiring manager’s perception, but rather on a defined process and structure. A critical step in removing gender bias in pay is complete transparency. Equal Pay Day should be January 1. Marking this day needs to be a holiday for equality not a day of shame.

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