Editor’s Note: This blog was written and submitted by Vision 2020 Tennessee Delegate Patricia Pierce.
The Equal Pay Act turns 50 this month and there is still a gender pay gap between men and women of twenty three cents! If the pay gap improves at the rate it has since 1963, less than a half a cent each year, the gap will not close completely for another 40 years! That’s too long to wait for pay equity! Gender discrimination is not likely to go away on its own. One thing we need to do is write about and talk about equal pay and other gender equity issues at every opportunity. Last week I spoke at the Tennessee Human Rights Commission Employment Law Seminar in Nashville, TN. Over 150 people from across the state were in attendance. My topic was Vision 2020’s national goal on pay equity. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness of Vision 2020 and expose pay equity issues that affect women and their families. I shared information from national studies and research that identified the following:
- The national average pay gap between women and men is 23 cents and is even greater for women of color. The wage gap in Tennessee is 20 cents.
- The national medium earnings for women is $36,931 and for men it is $47,715. In Tennessee the average is $31,585 for women and $41,019 for men.
- The pay gap has a lifetime affect. Over a lifetime, the wage disparity costs the average women and her family an estimated $700,000 to $2 million. The social security average benefits for women 65 and older is $12,000 compared to $16,000 for men.
- Approximately 40% of working mothers with children are primary breadwinners. Two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women. In Tennessee, 18% of women live in poverty.
I also shared some steps that need to be taken to address fair and equal pay:
- Update and pass legislation that would ensure effective enforcement and remedies are available. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes, update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act.
- Hold the National Equal Pay Task Force accountable for carrying out its mandated responsibilities to launch a collective effort of federal agencies to address pay equity issues.
- Employers need to take action to address pay equity within their organization by conducting pay audits to address differences and by ensuring non-gender related criteria are the norm for employment decisions.
- Join groups and organizations that are addressing gender equity issues, like Vision 2020! Go online and sign Vision 2020’s Declaration of Equality!
Each of us need to speak up and raise awareness and help facilitate change by continuously exposing these issues to the public, our peers and colleagues, and definitely to our legislators.