Eighty-two cents. Pre-pandemic, that’s what women were making compared to the white man’s dollar. And before our world turned upside down, things seemed like they may have been heading in the right direction.
Now things aren’t looking so optimistic.
Today is Equal Pay Day, supposedly the day on the calendar when women are able to catch up to what men earned the year before. For reference, last year that day was March 30.
Year after year, an argument persists that the wage gap doesn’t exist. But, as was discussed in a recent Deseret News webinar, any way you slice it, women aren’t paid the same as men.
“When we get down to it, in Utah we’re still at 70 cents to the dollar,” said Susan Madsen, founder and director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project.
“You can take out occupational segregation and different things, but when you get right down to it, you can take some of those pennies away, there is still a good chunk that is really just discrimination.”
Whether conscious or unconscious, biases and discrimination continue to hold women’s paychecks back.
Maybe the difference of 18 cents doesn’t seem like much, but the impact becomes clearer when the wealth gap is brought into the equation. In this instance, wealth refers to assets minus liability. In other words, a person’s overall net worth.
The gender wealth gap is a dismal 32 cents to the dollar, with Black and brown women having only a single cent to the dollar of white men.
That is unacceptable.
Women are paid less, but they also tend to spend less time in the workforce, spend more on children than men, and pay the pink tax — among many other things.
Women are asked to pay for more things but make less. This has negative immediate and long-term impact. Not only does it lead many families to face economic instability, but it does nothing to provide a route to retirement or any wealth to pass on.
I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: Lifting women lifts everyone. By eliminating the gender pay gap, families can be stronger and more secure — now and in the future.
That resolution doesn’t rest on the backs of women. Creating a better future is in the best interest of everyone, and so solving the gender pay and wealth gaps is everybody’s business.
Individuals can affect their own spheres of influence. Leaders can take a look at pay inequities. Employees can ask for a raise if they realize there is a discrepancy. Ask companies to release information on their gender and racial pay gaps. Invest in women-led companies and businesses.
Making small personal changes can have long-term impact, too. Becoming financially literate is a step everyone can take to start building a nest egg and try to close the wealth gap.
The world of finance is dominated by men, but progress is being made to make it accessible to female investors. Ellevest just became the first investment firm “built by women, specifically for women” to reach $1 billion in client assets.
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, great progress has been made, and we must not let the current “she-cession” stop it. Together, we can resolve to close the gap for women, and thereby help everyone. Institutional leaders must fix pay discrepancies and show real value for their female employees, and individuals can speak up and continue to be watchdogs about the issue.
There will be a time, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, where Equal Pay Day is no longer a necessary reminder.