Maybe you’ve heard about Equal Pay Day before, but maybe you’re still confused about what exactly everyone is talking about. The date varies by country – it’s April 2, 2019 in the US – and represents how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
Still not sure what that actually means? Let’s break it down.
Most of us know that men earn, on average, more than women. But did you know that women of color earn less than white women? Or that Hispanic women in particular are concentrated in the lowest paying jobs of all, with a median pay gap of 53 cents for every $1.00 earned by a white man?
For workers with intersectional identities (i.e. those who face overlapping forms of discrimination, like a woman of color or a queer person with a disability), gaps in median pay are even wider. Why? Since men - white men specifically - continue to dominate high-paying industries and leadership across sectors, traditionally underrepresented groups – like women or people of color – face limited opportunities to enter those spaces.
Which brings us to the next phenomenon that contributes to the Equal Pay Day discussion – a powerful force called occupational segregation. Basically, this is the word that describes the way that certain occupations have evolved as being male or female dominated.
Just think about how female-dominated professions like social work, nursing or teaching are paid less than male dominated fields like engineering and technology. There’s hope though, because the value we place on certain occupations can change over time.
In fact, computer engineering wasn’t originally a male dominated field. During the 50s, 60s, and 70s, women took important roles in computer engineering, and got underpaid for their contributions. By the 80s and 90s, as the profession became male-dominated, salaries increased considerably, signaling a highly valued skillset.
It’s time to open the doors to new perspectives and work to push Equal Pay Day back to January 1. Let’s keep talking about representation.
Pay Equity: equal pay for work of equal value.
Gender Pay Gap: “the difference between the median annual pay of all women who work full-time, year-round, compared to the pay of a similar cohort of men.”
Occupational Segregation: when “one demographic group is overrepresented or underrepresented among different kinds of work or different types of jobs.”
Intersectionality: the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, classism, socioeconomic status) combine, overlap and intersect.