AP NEWS

Editorial Close the wage gap once and for all

April 10, 2019

Can we have some outrage, please, that last week we reached the point in the year when a woman earns as much as a man for the same job?

A century after women finally received the right to vote, they still lack equality when it comes to pay. This insidious system is unfair and affects society as a whole.

April 2 was Equal Pay Day this year, meaning women have to work 92 days into the year to earn on average as much as men did the previous year.

The wage gap persists across many occupations, despite comparable skills, experience and education. Disturbingly, the gap is even greater for women of color.

White women earned, on average, 77 percent of what men earned in 2017; for black women it was 61 percent, and only 53 percent for Hispanic or Latina women, according to a study by the American Association of University Women.

In 2016, on average, “women were paid 22 percent less than men, after controlling for race and ethnicity, education, experience, and location,” the Economic Policy Institute noted. That holds true in female-dominated fields, such as nurse practitioners, and male-dominated fields, such as software development. The gap cannot be explained — or dismissed — by saying women choose lower-paying jobs.

Women with advanced degrees earn less than men with four-year degrees — $34.95 vs $37.13 an hour. The wage disparity is evident in the first professional jobs out of college. It cannot be explained away by women leaving the workforce for a while to have children.

The disparity accumulates across the work life and influences the level of Social Security payments a woman will receive, based on earnings, after retiring.

This should have been remedied when the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for businesses to pay women less than men for the same job with comparable skills. But four big loopholes in the act let the wage discrimination persist 56 years later.

The National Committee on Pay Equity started Equal Pay Day 23 years ago to raise public awareness about the wage gap.

The indefatigable U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced a bill the next year to close those loopholes, and the Democrat from the 3rd District is still fighting. Eleven more times she came back with a bill; last week brought a victory with the House passing it in a 242-187 vote that included eight Republicans. But its fate is anything but certain in the GOP-controlled Senate where Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, introduced a version last week.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would, among things, allow workers to compare notes on salaries without retaliation, and would prohibit employers from requiring salary histories before hiring.

Although Connecticut enacted legislation last year to prohibit the question of salary history, federal protection is also needed.

Pay should be parallel. Given the same education and opportunities, daughters are every bit as capable as sons.