Today isn’t just Tax Day. It’s also Equal Pay Day, marking how far into 2012 a median income woman has to work to earn the same amount as a similar man did in 2011.
Nationally, women working full-time make just 77% of men’s annual earnings and 82% of men’s weekly earnings. Women aren’t just making less overall; they are paid less than men for doing the same jobs. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found men earn more in nearly every occupation, even those where a majority of positions are held by women.
Among the top twenty occupations most commonly held by women, there is just one in which women earn more than men – bookkeeping, where women earn 100.3% of men’s wages. Similarly, women earn more than men in just one of the top twenty occupations for men: stock clerks and order fillers. And overall, women are at least twice as likely to be working in jobs that pay poverty-level wages.
Here in Washington, women at the median (including those working less than full-time) earn just 77% of men’s hourly wages. When it comes to monthly earnings, women in Washington take home less than 63% of men’s earnings. And although the Great Recession hit men’s employment numbers harder than women’s, the earnings gap has actually widened since 2007.
The progress achieved by women in past decades toward equal pay for equal work has all but halted, and that has real-life impacts on Washington’s families. The National Partnership for Women and Families found that if the wage gap were eliminated in Washington, women could afford 13 more months of rent or 39 more months (more than three years!) of family health insurance premiums.
The problem isn’t just the recession. It’s a lack of new policies aimed at leveling the playing field for today’s women and families. Disparities in pay are clearly harmful to the economic security of women and families – especially considering nearly one-third of Washington families headed by women live in poverty. As Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner compellingly states:
- We need equal pay laws to ensure that moms who work outside the home are paid the same as their male counterparts for the same work, so they can support their families.
- We need earned sick days laws, so that parents who do work outside the home don’t have to choose between a paycheck, or possibly losing a job, and staying home when they or a child are sick.
- We need to have paid family leave after a new child comes into a home, so that parents can take time out of work to recover and to care for a new child.
- And we need affordable, enriching childcare opportunities so that parents can get to work and children can have a safe, educational place to be while parents are working.
Mothers and families should be able to work hard and get what they need — a good job, food on the table, good health care, and a safe place to call home.
To be frank, children are not only our hearts, they are the economic engine of our nation’s future. And when we devalue the paid and unpaid work of moms, we devalue our future.
 Economic Policy Institute analysis of Current Population Survey data.