Today is #EqualPayDay. Here’s why it’s Not a Time for Celebration.

Morgan Spears, Emerson National Hunger Fellow
The Leadership Conference Education Fund

“Just got paid, it’s Friday night!” This 80’s anthem by Johnny Kemp still resonates today, because — for far too many people — Fridays and other days throughout the month are countdown-worthy. Many people mark their calendars with their pay periods. And a lot of things are contingent on our payday.

For a lot of folks, the waiting-on-payday-to-come struggle is very real.

Especially for women. Paydays have become reminders of all the money women, especially African-American women and Latinas, are actually losing throughout their lives. According to the National Women’s Law Center, a woman starting her career now will lose $430,480 over a 40-year career. This number doubles for African Americans and reaches approximately $1 million dollars for Latinas. It disproportionately impacts the 40 percent of households where women are the breadwinner, and forces many of these families — especially single-parent households — into poverty.

This is a problem — and highlighting that problem is that today, April 12, is Equal Pay Day. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. The persistent gender-based wage gap continues to hurt women, families, and the economy.

Most astounding is the disproportionate effect on women of color. In comparison to the 79 cents that women on average make for every dollar that White, non-Hispanic men make, African-American women make 60 cents and Latinas make 55 cents on average. Women with disabilities make 65 cents in comparison. Studies also show that after transition, transgender women workers’ pay falls by approximately a third.

And it’s important to acknowledge the challenges facing women who hold multiple and often marginalized identities. As Audre Lorde, a notable African-American writer noted, “there is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

One proposal, the Paycheck Fairness Act, makes it easier for women to combat wage discrimination, prevents businesses from punishing their employees for discussing their pay, and ensures victims of wage discrimination are compensated.

Since women are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage jobs — two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women — raising the minimum wage would help narrow the wage gap. Addressing the problematic tipped minimum wage would also help. Although we have no reason to celebrate, today is a somber reminder of the work we still have to do. The goal, of course, is to celebrate when Equal Pay Day finally falls on New Year’s — for ALL women.

For more information, or to get involved, check out these resources:

NWLC Fact Sheet on the Wage Gap
State By State Wage Gap
The Paycheck Fairness Act
Pay Equity and Discrimination