In 2014, women working full time, year round were typically paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to a man, resulting in $10,762 in lost earnings. According to NWLC analysis of new Census Bureau data, not only is this figure about the same as last year’s figure of 78 cents, but the wage gap hasn’t budged in nearly a decade.
The wage gap for many women of color is even larger—with African American women making 60 cents and Hispanic women making 55 cents to their white, male, non-Hispanic counterparts’ dollar.
The stagnant wage gap highlights the need to enact policies that combat barriers that women face in the workplace, including:
- Ending pay discrimination. Last week, the Department of Labor issued a final rule that will help combat pay secrecy and pay discrimination for women employed by federal contractors. This is an important step forward since federal contract workers make up 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. But there’s still a long way to go to ensure that all women get equal pay for equal work. Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act, empower women to fight pay discrimination, and encourage employers to pay workers equally.
- Raising the federal minimum and tipped minimum wages. The campaign to #RaisetheWage has continued to build momentum this year—with 29 states and the District of Columbia setting their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 and several cities following suit. This is good news for women who make up nearly two in three minimum wage workers. States with a higher minimum wage have smaller wage gaps. And raising the federal minimum wage should help shrink the wage gap nationally. Luckily, there’s a bill in Congress that would do just that—raising the federal minimum wage each year to $12 by 2020, and the minimum wage for tipped workers to $3.15 in 2016 and each year thereafter until it equals the regular minimum wage.
- Ensuring that workers with caregiving responsibilities have access to affordable child care and paid sick and family and medical leave. This Labor Day, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave a year. But there should be a national standard for paid sick leave and family medical leave for those outside the federal contractor workforce. And federal and state policymakers should provide significant new resources for child care so states can effectively implement the Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization law—which was approved last fall and aims to ensure the health and safety of child care, improve the quality of care, and make it easier for families to get and retain child care assistance—without reducing the number of families able to receive help paying for care.
- Curbing unfair scheduling practices and enforcing legal protections for women with caregiving responsibilities. Women make up a significant portion of the low-wage workplace, and many of those workplaces have unfair scheduling practices that force mothers and caregivers to choose between meeting their family responsibilities and keeping their jobs. Too often low-wage workers arrive at work only to be told their shift has been cancelled. Every dollar counts for low-wage workers and their families deserve schedules they can rely on.
There have been some positive developments in 2015, but unless more progress is made to help working families, we’ll be back here again next year—with the same, stagnant wage gap.