Today is Equal Pay Day. No, this isn't one of those special days used to celebrate something — it's more of a reminder of what changes still need to be made.
Since 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity has designated a Tuesday in April as a day to raise awareness of the gender wage gap. The activist organization, which was founded in 1979, chose this day of the week to symbolize how far into the week women have to work just to be able to earn the same wages men received the previous week.
Women have overcome many obstacles in the workforce through the years. Just watch an episode of Mad Men, and you'll be so glad people don't think and act like they did in the 1960s anymore. Well, for the most part.
Of course, not everything has changed in 50-some-odd years, and we still have a long way to go as cases of sexual harassment and gender discrimination still make headlines. Unfortunately, disparities in what men and women earn are also still alive and well.
These issues won't be solved overnight, and it's going to require effort from American citizens and policymakers alike in order to ensure that men and women earn an equal wage. However, the first step toward making any real change is to be informed so that you actually know what changes need to happen. Here are six facts you need to know about the gender wage gap so that you can help make it a thing of the past.
1. This Is The Current Gender Wage Gap
Women make 82.1 percent of men's median weekly earnings, according to the most current data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, as Hanna Rosin points out in an August 2013 Slate article, pinpointing what the gender wage gap actually is and, ultimately, the source of the problem may be much more complicated than we think.
2. The Fight For Equal Pay Dates Back To The Civil War
It's sad but true. Women have been fighting for equal pay for quite a long time. As TIME points out, a letter to the editor published in The New York Times on Feb. 18, 1869 discussed the disparity in male and female government employees' wages. Whoever wrote this letter probably would have been happy to know that just a year later, Congress passed an appropriations bill that prohibited gender pay discrimination for federal jobs. Unfortunately, the bill was weakened by the time it got to the Senate and only applied to new employees.
For my daughter, I hope soon this won't be a conversation anymore. It couldn't be simpler. Equal work equals equal pay. #EqualPayDay
— Barbara Corcoran (@BarbaraCorcoran) April 14, 2015
3. You Need To Know About This Important Legislation Obviously, the year 1870 wouldn't be the last time the government addressed the gender wage gap. The first piece of national legislation on the matter came in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, which prohibited wage discrimination based on sex. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation President Barack Obama signed into law on Jan. 29, 2009. This reinstated the protection against pay discrimination that had been taken away in the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The Paycheck Fairness Act is the latest piece of legislation trying to make its way through Congress after being blocked four times. This piece of legislation would help employees avoid, discover and combat sex-based pay discrimination.
4. Men And Women Have Different Occupations The types of careers men and women choose still vary dramatically, and it hasn't gotten much better since the 1970s. Some of the leading occupations for women are secretary and elementary school teacher, the same occupations most women had in 1970, according to the American Community Survey. To be fair, the leading occupations for men, miscellaneous manager and truck driver, hasn't changed since 1970 either.
#Ask4More. Equal Pay for equal work. http://t.co/E42qv4rjoJ #EqualPayDay pic.twitter.com/E1LkcQWcil — kerry washington (@kerrywashington) April 14, 2015
5. It'll Be A Long Time Before We Close The Gender Wage Gap
If the gender wage gap continues to narrow at the current rate, the national gender wage gap won't close until 2058, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research's Status of Women in the States 2015 report. The think tank predicts that the District of Columbia and Florida will be the first two states to achieve equal median annual earnings for men and women in 2038, while Wyoming will be the last to do so in 2159.
6. Equal Pay Activism Has Gone Mainstream
It's not just activists and politicians talking about equal pay anymore. Celebrities have been coming out in full force to lend their support and raise the profile of this important issue. Beyonce urged Americans to work toward equality in an article posted on The Shriver Report in 2014. Patricia Arquette gave a shout out to closing the gender wage gap in her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech at the 2015 Oscars, which was famously supported by Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. Sarah Silverman has been an especially vocal proponent of equal pay. Hopefully, the more attention this issue gets, the more progress will be made toward closing the gender wage gap once and for all.