Is Women’s Paycheck Equality the Difference of 23 Cents?
On Tuesday, September 17, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data on the wage gap between men and women in the United States from 2012. American women are on average, making 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, unchanged from last year. These stats have not budged over the past ten years!
The numbers are frustrating on their own. But this inequity goes beyond the numbers and has real and serious effects on women and families and basic costs of living: food, housing, education and retirement. Reform Jews in North America have been active on the issue of women’s economic justice for thirty years, but there is still so much more work to be done.
Women make up 40% of the workforce, yet make a significant amount less than their male counterparts. In difficult economic times such as these, every penny counts, regardless of the sex of the individual. The wage differentials are even more troubling for women of color, for when women working in full-time year-round positions are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a male corresponding equivalent, African-American women working in full-time year-round positions are paid 64 cents on the dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, and Hispanic women in jobs with those same time commitments were typically paid 54 cents on the dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
The wage gap not only burdens individual women but families, as well; four in 10 American households with children under age 18 include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family (a percentage that has quadrupled in the past 50 years).
Our tradition teaches us to respect the rights of workers and to pay them fairly (Deuteronomy 24:14-15), and as the Reform Movement connects social action to Jewish identity, it is our responsibility to speak out against this longstanding and deeply rooted injustice.
This is an ongoing injustice that demands our action and attention. The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in the 113th Congress (S. 84/HR. 377) and would close important loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In his early days in office, President Obama was successful in getting Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a crucial step forward, but as this latest Census report shows us, there is much work to be done. We need as much momentum as possible to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. You can take action with the RAC here and urge your Representatives and Senators to support this vital legislation.
For more information, check out the full Census report is available here as well as this report from the American Association of University Women, which outlines in greater detail the importance of closing the wage gap.
A version of this blog post appeared at the WRJ blog.