Today is Equal Pay Day, a day of national recognition of the need for women to catch up with men when it comes to compensation for equal work. We are not there yet, in spite of laws like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — yes, 1963 and signed into law by President Kennedy. At that time women were earning 59 cents on the dollar compared to men for equal work. Today, that figure is an average of 82 cents on the dollar compared to white non-Hispanic men. This disparity in pay and income costs women and their families hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
The pay gap is even greater for women of color, with African American women earning approximately 63 cents and Latinx women earning approximately 55 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic male.
As you can see, these figures are far from “equal”, and we still have a long way to go. This is not just a woman’s issue. It also is an issue for the sons and male domestic partners of working women, who also would benefit from equal pay for women in the workplace. For every family where the mother/domestic partner is a breadwinner, it is a REALLY big issue. Still.
And here is how the gender pay gap has worked in this past year during the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two million women left the workforce at a rate four times higher than men. As the economy recovers and schools and daycare facilities reopen, the hope is that employers will welcome those women back to their jobs.
And women lawyers also are impacted by this gender pay gap. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2019 show that women lawyers made 85 cents for every dollar made by male lawyers. The National Association for Women Lawyers (NAWL) Annual Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms is another good source of information on these issues.
In closing, let me respond to a reader who gave me push back —well deserved , I might add– the last time I wrote about these issues. The reader took issue with what I wrote about flexible hours and how they impact equal work. Let me be clear. I am entirely in support of flexible schedules, and I know how important they are to women with childcare responsibilities, especially. When the hours are worked is not important in the same way as if the hours are worked, and I am completely supportive of increased flexibility that will keep talent in the workplace without sacrificing the work product.
Specifically, the question asked was, “Do you really believe one is setting the cause [for equal pay] back rather than advancing it if they work flexible hours? If they work at home while their child is staying home sick and sleeping all day … or if you work in the office from 8pm to 12am rather than 8am-12pm because that’s when you have morning sickness?
The answer is emphatically No! That is not what I believe, and I regret that what I wrote earlier was interpreted in that way. So, thank you, reader, for allowing me to point that out.
I urge all of you to consult the National Committee on Pay Equity website to find out what you can do to help bring about pay equity for women. Sooner rather than later.