Afternoon Jolt

Afternoon Jolt: The Day After Equal Pay Day

The day's winners and losers.

By Afternoon Jolt April 9, 2014

Today's loser: Women. 

As they did in 2013 and 2012, women in the U.S. still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. 

There are lots of reasons women work fewer hours than men, chief among them the facts that:  

A) Women are still the primary (unpaid) caregivers, cooks, housecleaners, and errand-runners in most households. If men and women did the same amount of unpaid work (or if women were compensated for that free labor), the pay gap likely would even out, but that isn't the world we currently live in.

Image iva

B) "Women's work"—caregiving industries like teaching and health care, where women tend to dominate (and to which girls and women have been traditionally steered; how many engineering kids' toys do you see on the pink aisle at Target?)—is less highly valued in our society, so those jobs pay less. Those jobs also tend to be more flexible (e.g., allowing employees to work part-time), which makes it possible for women to do all the unpaid work mentioned in point A) above. 

C) Some of the pay gap can be attributed to straight-up, old-fashioned discrimination: Companies know they can pay women less, for the exact same work as men, so they do. Women can "lean in" all Sheryl Sandburg wants, but ultimately, everyone needs a paycheck—even if that paycheck is less than the guy's in the cubicle next door. "This won’t be the last time they have to go home to their constituents and explain that they don’t think this is a worthy issue or something that actually impacts women." 

D) As Melissa at Shakesville points out, the overall pay gap elides the fact that women of color, trans women, women with disabilities, and fat women, among other less-privileged folks, make less, on average, than highly educated white women who are typically the focus of stories about the wage gap.

E) And finally, over at the new Vox website, Matt Yglesias tears apart the idea that the gender pay gap is just because women want to work less, noting that: E) Even accounting for the difference in hour women and men work for pay, the pay gap remains at 84 percent; 

All of which is a leadup to the fact that today, one day after Equal Pay Day (the day on which the average woman in the U.S. catches up to the salary the average man made during the previous year), Republicans in the U.S. Senate unanimously blocked debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would help close the gender pay gap in the U.S. The bill would have made it easier for a woman to sue her employer if she is being paid less than a man for doing the same job. 

In a statement, Washington U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said, "This isn’t over. Equal pay for equal work is going to remain at the forefront of our agenda in the months ahead and we aren’t going to let Republicans off the hook on an issue this important. This won’t be the last time they have to go home to their constituents and explain that they don’t think this is a worthy issue or something that actually impacts women." 

And while she doesn't represent our state, we have to give a shout-out to Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who skewered Republican former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden's recent statement that Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) discussion of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into CIA torture was merely "emotional," responding, "It brings tears to my eyes to know how women every single day are working so hard and are getting paid less. It makes me emotional to hear that. Then when I hear all of these phony reasons — some are mean and some are meaningless — I do get emotional. I get angry, I get outraged, I get volcanic."


Show Comments