Women are still behind men on salaries and wages

Women are still behind men on salaries and wages

It has been exactly 60 years since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, a move intended to ensure that women earn as much as men in equivalent jobs. But despite significant progress, we still haven’t reached that goal. And since 1997, New York City women have actually lost ground.

Women deserve better. These pay disparities hinder their ability to provide for their families, save for retirement and unforeseen expenses, and engage in their communities.

New York City and State have been leaders in advancing public policies that promote salary parity and support women in the workplace. These include requiring pay transparency in hiring and banning employers from asking about salary history or expectations, and enacting paid family leave, pregnancy discrimination prevention, and lactation laws.

Nevertheless, persistent pay disparities show that the city and state need to do more. Our policymakers in the city and in Albany must build on our progressive track record and do what’s needed to make equal pay for equal work a reality for New York women.

Women Creating Change and the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, the organizations we work for, recently issued a report showing that in 2022, nationwide, women received an average 87 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. While that’s better than 59 cents in 1963, progress has slowed in recent decades — they were getting 81 cents for every dollar earned by a man 30 years ago.

In New York City, where progressive policies have helped shrink the wage gap, women earned 90 cents for every dollar earned by men — more than their counterparts in other parts of the country — but that’s less than the 92 cents New York women were getting in 1997. And the gap is much wider for women of color. In 2022, while white women earned 86 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, Black women earned 57 cents and Latina/Hispanic women received just 54 cents.

This isn’t just an economic issue, it’s a moral imperative. When women, especially women of color, are paid less than their male counterparts for equal work, it perpetuates systemic discrimination, reinforces harmful stereotypes, and limits the potential of our entire city.

Despite closing the gap with men in educational attainment, women are heavily represented in early childhood education, home health care, and other occupations that traditionally have been undervalued and poorly paid. In the 21st century, women still are penalized for having children and often face limited opportunities in the workforce compared to men.

We need real policy changes and a significant cultural shift to increase opportunities for women in all sectors of the economy, including high-growth fields such as technology, and provide enough income to manage the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

COVID showed us the importance of affordable child care and the benefits of flexible scheduling and remote work so women with family responsibilities can continue in their careers. Research has shown that women in the U.S. spend 37% more time on unpaid household and care work than men and in households with young children, women spend twice as much time providing in-person care as men.

Better pay and a more flexible workday also will enable women to contribute to their communities, to advocate for themselves and others to improve their quality of life. A healthy democracy requires civic participation and among the recommendations in our report is no-excuse absentee voting.

Other policy proposals in our report address economic issues facing women, including increasing the minimum wage, addressing pay inequities predominantly affecting women of color in the human services sector (in line with the #JustPay campaign advocacy), enhancing tax credits benefiting low-income families, and raising unemployment insurance benefits while making it easier to access these benefits, especially for low- and moderate-income workers.

Our report on pay inequities is the first in a series examining economic barriers to women’s full participation in civic affairs to improve their lives. Our organizations — one founded by suffragettes in the early 20th century, and the first university-based center in the nation to focus on urban problems — are uniquely positioned to bring this research forward.

There can be no justice or equality without gender pay equity. We all should continue to fight for fair pay, higher wages, robust benefits, and more family-supportive policies that will allow women — and in turn, entire communities — to thrive. While New York’s leaders have taken bold steps towards equity, there is more work to do, and there is no time to waste.

Sewell-Fairman is the president and CEO of Women Creating Change. Moe is the author of the report and the associate director for Economic and Fiscal Policies at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. 

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