Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 as part of his New Frontier program. The federal law amended the Fair Labor Standards Act that was directed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender.
Today, 50 years to the day, President Obama marked the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. Surrounded by women at the podium, he noted that while progress has been made we still have a long way to go to curb and eliminate the inequality women face in achieving pay equity with their male counterparts.
At the time the law was signed, women earned 59 cents for every dollar men made; today the gap has narrowed but, at 77 cents, there is still work to be done. In fact, as President Obama noted, for women of colour the difference is even greater: for African-American and Hispanic women it’s even lower at 64 and 54 cents, respectively — but, overall, women have gained what amounts to only 18 cents in 50 years.
Even with moves toward equalising pay between men and women, and the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Act requiring equal pay, men still make almost 20% more than women in nearly all industries. This is despite the fact that women receive the same education, with the same tuition price tags and levels of debt upon graduation. The only major differences are that there are more women in college and, on average, women have better GPAs.
The POTUS signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act upon his arrival in Oval Office during his first term. That was a step in the right direction.
Since that time, the GOP has done their part: voting against every measure presented to close the remaining salary gap. Recently, one representative, Marsh Blackburn of Tennessee, went so far as to say that women sought recognition and really don’t want equal pay laws. Way to go to carry the pay torch for all women, Ms. Blackburn!
Most women can’t wait another 50 years from this anniversary to achieve pay check equality.
As President Obama noted during his conference, “We can do better….yes we can.”