Equal pay?  Women earn 80¢ to a man’s $1

by Diane Bairstow

Every month we are following the ratification of the 19th Amendment and considering women’s issues then and now. In February 1920, Wyoming, Nevada, New Jersey, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma signed on; the suffragettes had 3 states left to go.

World War 1 changed the face of the workplace. Women took over jobs vacated by men in factories, railways, banks, police forces and fire departments. They were paid less than the men who vacated the positions. After the war, women continued to work and continued to be paid less than men.

US ranks 51st in gender parity

Legislation requiring equal pay for equal work has been in place in the United States since 1963 when the Equal Pay Act (EPA) was passed. Nevertheless, in 2020 the United States ranks 51 out of 149 countries in gender parity according to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The top 10 countries are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.

Women are paid 80¢ to a man’s dollar

According to Dalvin Brown, writing in USA Today on April 3, 2019 (Equal Pay Day), “Women still earn lower salaries, [and receive] fewer promotions” than men. Women are “getting paid 80% on average for every dollar a man makes.” Data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that in 2016, Vermont ranked highest in wage parity coming in at 90.2%, Utah ranked lowest at 69.9%. Colorado ranks between 70 to 80%. Women seeking loans to start a business receive about 31% less money than their male peers, according to a 2019 study by Biz2credit.

Good news for young women

In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that women 35 and older earned 74% to 80% of their male counterparts’ salaries, whereas women ages 16 to 24 were earning 88.3%. In 2008, single, childless women between ages 22 and 30 were earning more than their male counterparts in most United States cities, with incomes that were 8% greater than males according to an analysis of Census Bureau data.

Bad news for pregnant women

The United States came in last of 41 nations ranked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in regards to maternity leave. We were the only nation that did not require paid maternity leave. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1992 requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Of the other 40 nations, the amount of paid leave ranged from two months to over a year.

Sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is prohibited by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. However, research in 2018 by the Equal Human Rights Commission revealed that one in nine mothers were either dismissed or their jobs were made redundant shortly after giving birth. One in five mothers experienced harassment and 10% reported pressure to forego antenatal sessions that took place during work hours.

Iceland’s example

Iceland has ranked number one in gender parity for the last 9 years according to the WEF; however, in the early 1970s women made approximately 60% (or less) of a man’s wages. On October 24, 1975, women rebelled. Ninety percent took a “Day Off” refusing to work neither outside nor inside the home.

Factories closed, newspapers were not printed, there was no telephone service, many schools were closed, flights were cancelled and bank branches had to be staffed by executives. Men had to bring their children to work, and the shops that were still open sold out of sausages, which was the fast food choice that even men could cook. A year later, their parliament passed the Gender Equality Act, which outlawed gender discrimination in workplaces and schools.

Decades later, there was still pay inequality, and these wily women again protested. In 2005, women left work at 2:08pm—the minute they began working for free, and in 2016 they left work at 2:38pm to again demonstrate the pay gap.

In January 2018 Iceland became the first country in the world to require companies and government agencies to prove they are paying men and women equally.