It’s Equal Pay Day—And It’s Time for Action

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day of the year symbolizing how far into the year women must work before they earn what men earned the previous year. In other words, today women have made us much as men made by December 31 of last year. / Creative Commons

Women around the U.S. will be wearing red today to symbolize how women and minorities are “in the red” on the pays scale when compared to their male counterparts. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Patty Miller (D-Wash.) are marking the occasion by re-introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act, common-sense legislation closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and strengthening protections against discrimination for women workers.

“Think about 20 cents,” DeLauro wrote in an op-ed for Cosmopolitan today. “It doesn’t feel very significant—there isn’t much you could buy with it. But over a lifetime, those 20 cents add up in a major way. Today, we have reached yet another Equal Pay Day—the day on which the average woman’s earnings finally catch up to what the average man made last year. This year’s Equal Pay Day falls 94 days into 2017—94 days too late.”

On average, full time female workers in the U.S. lose a combined total of $500 million a year due to the wage gap. Women of color are poised to incur the greatest losses; a black woman will lose $900,000 over the course of her career due to the wage gap while a Latina woman will lose $1,000,000.

On March 28, Iceland became the first country in the world to introduce legislation that would require employers to furnish proof their workers are paid equally, regardless of gender.  One day earlier, President Donald Trump rolled back an Executive Order signed in 2014 that demanded accountability or equal pay regardless of gender and compliance with other major labor laws from federal employers and contractors.

“At a time when women’s wages are essential for their families and our economy, we need a set of public policies that ensure they have access to good and decent-paying jobs, the support they need to stay and advance in their careers, and fair and nondiscriminatory treatment,” Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement today.

According to the International Labor Organization, the global gender pay gap will not close for 70 years unless efforts are undertaken to remedy the wage discrimination faced by women at all levels of society.

“Equal pay is an idea whose time has come—in fact, it is long overdue,” DeLauro wrote. “But we have the power. We have the momentum. And I believe that we will win.”

What are you doing for Equal Pay Day? Make sure to tag @MsMagazine on social media when you use the hashtag #EqualPay and let us know!



Lauren Young is a Ms. contributor. She has a Master’s Degree in European and Russian Studies from Yale University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Russian Civilization from Smith College. Follow her on @thatlaurenyoung.