Women's Equality Day is celebrated in the United States on August 26 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States based on sex.
Additionally, laws have been passed to give women equal opportunities in employment-related decisions.
- Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided women equal rights in the workplace by prohibiting discrimination in employment-related decisions, including hiring, promotions, pay, etc.
- The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 requires employers to ensure their pay practices are non-discriminatory and to make certain that they keep records needed to prove the fairness of pay decisions.
Has women's pay improved?
More than a decade after the most recent pay equity law was signed into law, we still see compensation inequity in our workplaces. In 2020, a PayScale report found that women make only $0.81 for each dollar men make. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) discovered that in 2018, median weekly earnings for female full-time wage and salary workers was 81% of men’s earnings. “Women had lower median weekly earnings than men in most of the occupations for which we have earnings data for both women and men,” the BLS report found.
While most companies or managers don’t intend to have discriminatory pay practices, the net effect of some practices or policies in the workplace can result in an unintentional disparate impact on people of a protected characteristic. This can have a great effect over the long-term. An October 2012 study by the American Association of University Women found that throughout a 35-year career, an American woman with a college degree will make about $1.2 million less than a man with the same education. Closing the pay gap by raising women's wages would have a stimulus effect that would grow the U.S. economy by at least 3%.
Studies show that pay equity is closer for younger women and men than with older women and men. Why does the pay gap exist? There are several reasons that may contribute:
- Choice of college major or career path
- Limited work experience
- Lack of formal training
- Undervaluing the work in fields in which women primarily work
- Women take more time off for child-rearing
- Men tend to negotiate more often and for more pay than women
What can employers do?
To ensure your employment practices result in equitable treatment, consider the following actions:
- Understand the employment laws that apply to you
- Review policies and how they are applied
- Provide guidelines and training for managers
- Conduct a pay analysis to determine if employees in similar positions are paid the same
- Establish a pay structure to ensure equitable pay practices and support pay transparency
- Provide options for caregivers (fair and/or flexible scheduling practices, paid sick leave, etc.)
- Form a diverse committee to help in determining hiring and promotional decisions and other employment actions that could result in biased decision-making
- Provide training and mentoring programs to help get employees ready for advancement