Skip to main content

A Status Update on Equal Pay

*Originally published in Worth

Tucked away on a tiny peninsula in the Bay Area is the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park. The name sounds more reverent than the actual experience. The museum itself is a rectangular box of mementos describing “Who was Rosie?” memorializing the iconic “We can do it!” image of what’s become a symbol of American feminism and the introduction of women in the Industrial Age economy. 

In many ways, it was the first time Equal Pay entered the national conversation. The “boys” were overseas, and we needed some help here on shore. Eventually, an agreement was reached that allowed equal pay for women under the condition that they performed the same job as men “without assistance or supervision.” But companies found loopholes, and many women only received about 53 percent of the pay their male counterparts previously earned. 

It’s been 80 years since WWII, and Rosie was born to inspire the heroics of what women can accomplish as part of the workforce. Fast forward to today, how far have we come, and just how much farther do we have to go? 

Today’s Status Quo

March 14th, recognized as Equal Pay Day, is a reminder of how far into the new year women must work to earn what men earned the previous year. Nowadays, women earn, on average, 30 percent less than men, and the gap only widens as women age. 

Of course, this isn’t true for every workplace and woman. We can apply socioeconomic, racial, geographic, and cultural nuances to see the data with an objective eye, but we know the gap still exists on a global scale.    

Positive Strides 

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team scored a huge win to the tune of a $24 million equal pay settlement. This case shined a light on the unequal pay women players received despite winning more titles and bringing in more revenue. The following year, the Cantwell-Capito Equal Pay for Team USA Act was made into law, ensuring all U.S. Olympic Team athletes are paid equally, regardless of gender.   

Colorado was the first state to enact pay transparency laws requiring employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings. Since then, Maryland, Connecticut, Nevada, Rhode Island, Washington, California, and New York have followed suit, Now, 1 in 4 U.S. workers live in areas where pay transparency laws are in place. 

Boardrooms are becoming more diverse. Black women now hold 25 percent of the seats in S&P 500 companies. And women hold 32 percent of all seats on S&P 500 boards. These are a few steps in the right direction to balance pay inequality across gender. 

But There’s Still Work to Be Done…

Research found that women only apply to jobs they feel they are 100 percent qualified for, whereas men apply when they meet most but not all of the qualifications. And a recent study found overqualified women and sufficiently qualified men are often hired for the same roles. Women are not receiving the same return on investment for their experience and qualifications [i.e., pay, title, promotions]. The impact is that companies are not utilizing women’s extensive skill sets, hindering not only their individual growth but possibly the growth of the organization. To correct this, we need to invest more in female leadership opportunities and diversity programs.   

As women age, the pay gap increases, with women over 45 earning about 25 percent less than men. These gaps can be attributed to women being in lower-paid fields and working fewer hours due to family responsibilities. Because women earn less throughout their careers, they pay less into Social Security, so even in retirement, women continue to lag behind men in earnings. A woman entering the workforce at 20 could make as much as $407,000 less in a 40-year career compared to her male equivalent. This translates to women receiving, on average, $329 less from the Social Security Administration.  

These inequalities are even greater for women of color. March 15th is essentially equal pay day for white women. For Black women, that day doesn’t come until September 21st, for Native American women, it’s November 30th, and Latina Women won’t reach it until December 8th. 

Closing the Gap

The conversation around equal pay continues to get louder and garner support from leadership all over the country. In 2019, Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan launched Chief, a first-of-its-kind network made up of powerful top female executives to strengthen leadership and create a smoother path for future generations of women leaders. Chief has over 12,000 current members representing over 8,000 companies, over half of which are Fortune 100 companies. These include corporations such as Disney, Nasa, Pfizer, Google, L’Oreal, and Zoom. These members are working towards closing the gender pay gap and moving towards making equal pay a reality for all.  

Stay up to date with the trends impacting our workplaces with our Top 10 Trends for Today's Workplace and Beyond.