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  • Writer's pictureMac Deford

Pay Inequality in America

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

It is the end of November, and if you are like me, you are getting bombarded with end-of-month emails from candidates asking for donations. It’s no secret that I need your help to get to Congress. But today, I want to talk about more than donations - I want to talk about ending pay discrimination in America.

First, a little background: In 1963, President Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act. The law ended the practice of using gender-segregated pay scales that blatantly paid women at a lower rate than men doing the exact same job. However, even President Kennedy recognized that the Equal Pay Act was just a first step, and he emphasized that much work remained to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity.

When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women made $0.59 for every dollar paid to men. Today, women make, on average, $0.84 on every dollar paid to men. We have made some progress, but not enough, considering it's been 60 years since the Equal Pay Act became law.

Text: The problem is clear - the Equal Pay Act has become inadequate to address the modern workplace and pay inequality in America. , Photo of Mac

The problem is clear - the Equal Pay Act has become inadequate to address the modern workplace and pay inequality in America.

First, the Equal Pay Act was created to address standardized work environments (think factory work). The legal standard “equal pay for equal work” is taken literally, which does not address many jobs women find themselves in. As a result, employers can pay employees unequally if the jobs are not identical.

Second, the Equal Pay Act does not cover race or national origin - it is only narrowly focused on the opposite gender. As a result, African-American women stand to lose over $1 million over a 40-year career span because of the pay gap.

Lastly, it is easy for employers to evade being held accountable. An employer can legally pay a woman less than a man doing the exact same job, but rather than base it on the woman's gender; her pay may be based on her salary history, perpetuating pay inequality in the United States.

So what’s the way forward?

In 2021, Republican Nancy Mace voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have, among other things, prohibited employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s pay history. We need to elect representatives who will actually support women and not vote against their interests at every turn. I will fight to strengthen the Equal Pay Act to include race and other protected categories. I will fight to expand the definition of “equal work” to account for jobs that are equivalent in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility, even if they are not identical. And, I will fight for pay transparency that mandates employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings.

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