Women’s History month is the perfect time to consider that the struggle for pay equity between American men and women dating back to at least the early 1960s – remains a stubbornly elusive goal today.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all recognized our dependence on and appreciation of frontline workers in occupations like child care, elder care, home health care, retail, education and hospitality – many of whom are women of color and often paid low wages. Even as they shouldered the heaviest burdens of the health and economic crisis, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts, denying them hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetimes.
Ensuring equal pay for equal labor is essential to advancing traditional American values of fairness and equity. Women lose thousands of dollars each year, and hundreds of thousands over a lifetime. Women working full-time, year-round in 2019 earned just 82 cents for every dollar earned by men working full-time, year-round. These stark disparities are even greater for women of color and individuals who face discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including LGBTQ+ individuals.
Unlike the distinct job categorizations used by the federal government or the US military’s pay-grade rankings, a basic provision of the Paycheck Fairness Act would simply require private-sector employers to provide compensation data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The data collected by the EEOC could then be used to propose voluntary guidelines showing employers how to best evaluate jobs with the goal of eliminating unfair pay disparities.
In 2021, House Democrats passed the “Paycheck Fairness Act” — commonsense legislation intended to build upon provisions of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 — to give workers more tools to fight gender-based pay discrimination, allow workers to discuss their compensation with colleagues, and require employers to prove that pay disparities between men and women are, in fact, job-related.
The bill was narrowly passed along strict party lines by the House in April 2021 but it was blocked by Senate Republicans in June 2021.
While the Paycheck Fairness Act awaits even its debate in our dysfunctional Senate, there’s still much work we can do to fulfill the promise of equal pay for American women. The gender wage gap is not only discriminatory to women and minorities, ultimately it undermines the financial stability of families and slows our economic growth and prosperity.
The Paycheck Fairness Act provides a mechanism to lift working families out of poverty and finally aligns the fight against workplace gender discrimination with other federal anti-discrimination laws.
I am running for Congress in order to ensure women aren’t held back in the workplace. We can do this by prioritizing equal pay for equal work, improving the quality and wages of jobs that are disproportionately held by women, and by dismantling the barriers that keep women from fully participating in the American labor force.
If the historic economic and societal upheaval of Covid-19 teaches us anything, it is that women have always been integral to the vitality of the US economy and its preeminence globally. We must enact the Paycheck Fairness Act to both close the worsening pay gap as well as protect and empower women as they now seek to re-enter the job force.
By making child care more affordable, increasing our access to elder care and home health care services, and by investing in the wages and benefits of our “essential” workers we are making critical investments in our own financial security.
This legislation is long overdue.