For more than a decade, U.S. women have earned, on average, 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man. Today the same disparity remains, but varies greatly by state and race, according to a study released last week by the National Women’s Law Project (NWLP).
Wyoming’s pay gap is the widest: Women working full time year-round earn 64 cents to a man’s dollar. Louisiana and West Virginia are hardly better, with women getting paid around 30 percent less than men.
On the other hand, Washington, D.C., ranks first in pay equity, with women being paid just 10 percent less than men. That relatively small percentage is deceptive, however, as the pay gap for D.C. women of color is among the 10 worst in the country. Hispanic women are at the very bottom of the pay scale, earning 48 cents to every dollar a non-Hispanic white man makes—a difference that could add up to more than $1 million dollars over a career, says the NWLP.
The NWLP suggests several federal solutions to make wages more equitable. First, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which if passed would make excuses like “men negotiate higher salaries” illegal grounds for unequal pay. It would also allow workers to discuss their pay among themselves without penalty and allow victims of gender discrimination to sue for similar compensation as those discriminated against because of race.
Another law that could help, the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act (EEORA), would allow employees to bring forth class-action lawsuits on the basis of existing anti-discrimination laws. And raising the minimum wage—NWLP’s third suggestion—could narrow the gender wage gap because most minimum-wage workers are women.
The possibilities of either Paycheck Fairness or EEORA passing may be slim, considering past attempts—the Paycheck Fairness Act has already been rejected twice by Congress—but with the White House warming to the idea of a higher minimum wage, it’s worth a small burst of optimism.
What’s the situation in your state? See here.
Photo from Flickr user bitospud under license from Creative Commons 2.0