It’s Equal Pay Day—which means that as of today, women, on average, earned what they deserved to make by December 31 of last year. For women of color, more workdays lie ahead until they’ve received their fair share: August 7 is Black women’s equal pay day, September 22 is Native women’s equal pay day and November 1 is Latinx equal pay day.
To mark the occasion, MomsRising is hosting a small business campaign with Main Street Alliance to sound the alarm on gender wage inequality—serving up shocking statistics alongside coffee and other cafe snacks. Dozens of coffee shops and restaurants in 15 states today will use coffee sleeves and napkins that raise awareness about the wage gap to encourage communities to speak out before their next sip.
Conversations around equal pay are certainly not new, but they’re becoming more urgent. “The desire to control your life, work, and schedule without losing pay is an even greater issue for moms who earn 71 cents on the dollar to dads,” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising and author of Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Change Our World, told Ms. “81 percent of women become moms, three-quarters of moms are in the labor force and 40 percent of primary breadwinners are moms. The wage, the hiring and the advancement discrimination is extreme and is getting worse over time.”
“Women in the U.S. lose a combined total of more than $840 billion every year because of the wage gap,” Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of Main Street Alliance, said in a press release. “When we close that gap, women and their families will have more purchasing power and upward mobility.” Closing the gender wage gap would also cut poverty rates in the U.S. by over 50 percent and increase the U.S. GDP by 2.8 percent—and over 25 million children would be lifted up by pay equity alongside their mothers. “The benefits of equal pay, both for women and our economy,” Rowe-Finbeiner noted in the same release, “are far too great to ignore.”
That’s why MomsRising hopes to move people beyond awareness and into action by demanding the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), which would update the Equal Pay Act and tighten existing loopholes that are holding women—and families—back. The PFA would require that employers who pay men and women differently for the same job are able to prove a need for doing so and provide specific enforcement guidelines for equal pay to employers as well as guidance and training at the federal level and protections for employees who ask about salary policies.
“The Paycheck Fairness Act has passed both the House and the Senate, just not in the same year,” says Rowe-Finkbeiner. “We are confident that with the power of mom’s voices and supporters it will pass soon and create pay equity changing the lives of all women, children, and families without having to wait another 55 years.”
When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. women were paid 58 cents to every dollar a man made. Over 30 years later, when the National Committee on Pay Equity created Equal Pay Day, women earned 68 cents on every man’s dollar. Today, 55 years later, women on average make about 80 percent of what men are paid. Amy Froide, a professor of History at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who researches economic and gender history, is tired of waiting for progress.
“We can document a gender pay gap of women making 33 percent less of what men make back to the middle ages,” says Froide. “This holds true all the way up to the eighties and nineties, when women on average began to make about 18 percent less than men. This increase in gender pay equity is hardly revolutionary. It shouldn’t take 800 years to get a raise.”