April 2 is Equal Pay Day in the United States this year. The day is meant to remind people that women are still not paid the same for doing the same work as men.
The phrase “gender pay gap” is often used to describe the problem of women being paid less for doing the same work. “Gender” usually means whether someone is a man or woman.
Equal Pay Day was started in 1996 to help point out the gender pay gap in the US. It helps show how much longer women have to work to earn the same amount of money as men.
In the US, women earn just $.80 for every dollar that men earn. That means that by the end of 2018, on average, women had only earned 80% as much as men. In order to earn the same amount, an average woman would have had to keep working until today, April 2.
In other words, last year, an average woman had to work about 15 months to make the same amount of money a man made in 12.
Equal Pay Day doesn’t happen on the same day every year or on the same day in every country. It depends on the difference between the amount of money men and women earn in each country. In Germany, Equal Pay Day happened on March 19 this year.
In some countries, Equal Pay Day is measured differently. For example, in the UK, since women earn 86% of what men earn, Equal Pay Day comes when the year is 86% over. In 2018, that happened on November 10.
In the US, there has been a law since 1963 saying that women must be paid the same as men. Still, the differences in pay continue. Many reasons have been given for this.
In general, women spend more time building and supporting their families, and this can limit the amount of money they earn. Some people believe that girls and women are often guided toward lower paying careers, so that there aren’t as many women in high-paying jobs. Other people believe women need to get better at demanding fair pay.
But none of that explains why women are often paid less for doing exactly the same work.
As people have focused more on the gender pay gap, in general, things have gotten better, but very slowly. When Equal Pay Day was started in 1996, women earned about 74% of what men earned. Now, 23 years later, they earn 80%.
Last week, the US House of Representatives passed a bill called the “Paycheck Fairness Act”, which would help make sure women get paid equally. Some members of Congress have been trying to pass this law since 1997. Although the the bill passed in the House, it will be much harder for it to pass in the Senate.
For now, days like Equal Pay Day remind people that there is still much work to be done to close the gender pay gap. And the work won’t be over until Equal Pay Day falls on December 31 – for everyone.