Equal Pay Day 2018: Ending Secrecy to Close the Gender Wage Gap and Fight Sexual Harassment

This year’s Equal Pay Day falls on April 10th, marking the 3 months of extra time women in the U.S. typically have to work to “catch up” to what men made last year due to the gender wage gap.  The gender wage gap refers to the median earnings of women working full time, year round as a percentage of the median earnings of men working full time, year round. In the United States, women working full time, year round are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.
The gender wage gap hits women of color particularly hard. For every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man, black women are paid only 63 cents, Latina women are paid only 54 cents, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women are paid only 59 cents, and Native women are paid only 57 cents. Asian women working full time, year round are typically paid only 87 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, and this wage gap is substantially larger for some subgroups of Asian women.
The gender wage gap persists across occupations. Women are overrepresented in low-wage occupations and underrepresented in high-wage occupations, but women in both low and high wage occupations continue to experience gaps in pay. Among full time, year round workers in low wage jobs —such as childcare workers, bartenders, and personal care aides—women make just 71 cents for every dollar paid to men. Among full time, year round workers in high wage occupations—such as lawyers, engineers, physicians or surgeons—women are paid 75 cents for every dollar paid to men.
Secrecy about pay contributes to the gender wage gap. You can’t remedy pay discrimination if you have no idea whether you are making less than the man across the hall.  Of all forms of discrimination, pay discrimination is among the most difficult to detect and address. When employees are paid less because of their sex, race, or ethnicity, they often have no idea that they are being discriminated against. It’s not immediately obvious, like a demotion or a termination would be. That’s why transparency is essential for closing the gender wage gap and ending pay discrimination once and for all. Pay transparency efforts like prohibiting employer policies that keep employees from discussing their wages, or encouraging pay data reporting among employers, are some of the best ways to prevent race and gender gaps from getting swept under the rug.
Requiring employers to collect and report pay data is a powerful tool for achieving equal pay and fighting pay discrimination. Despite this, last August, the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) blocked an important equal pay initiative—the EEO-1 equal pay data collection—which would have required large employers to report pay data by race, ethnicity, and gender to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), along with our partners, sued the OMB along with the EEOC to fight this move backwards into secrecy. For almost eight months now, the federal pay data collection effort has been stalled, subject to an indefinite “review” that has no timeline or defined process. That’s why today, we, along with our partners, delivered a petition with over 20,000 signers urging the EEOC to craft a new path forward to collect pay data and help to close the gender wage gap.
Sexual harassment in the workplace also contributes to the gender wage gap. Over the last several months, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have helped bring to light the ways in which discrimination and harassment have threatened women’s safety, equality, and advancement in nearly every workplace and industry.  For years, survivors suffered in silence, afraid that if they spoke up they would jeopardize their jobs and careers, and that nothing would be done.
After the announcement that NWLC, through the National Women’s Law Center Fund (NWLCF), would house the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, we saw a dramatic spike in the number of women contacting us about sexual harassment they experienced at work. Not only that, but we have also seen a dramatic increase in pay discrimination intakes—and often the same women who have been harassed at work have also experienced pay discrimination. For instance, we have heard from women who don’t get raises because they refuse their boss’s advances. Women who are demoted and have their hours—and thus their pay—cut after they report harassment. Women who are denied training and promotional opportunities because they reported harassment or refused their boss’ advances. We weren’t surprised to see these intakes increase at the same time. When a woman complains of sexual harassment at work, it is not uncommon to find out that she is also being discriminated against in her pay.
Actors like Debra Messing and Eva Longoria who have been supporting Time’s Up on the red carpet, have pointed out that Time’s Up  shouldn’t just focus on sexual harassment, but also should address other workplace inequalities, like the gender wage gap and pay discrimination. They understand that these issues serve the same purpose—to further entrench the power imbalances that women confront in the course of their careers.
Sexual harassment and pay discrimination are both about the same thing: power. Sexist stereotypes and outdated workplace structures—like the lack of paid leave, predictable work schedules, affordable child care, and union support—make it hard for women to get and keep good jobs and advance in the workplace. This leaves women with less power in the workplace, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation. Sexual harassment and pay discrimination are stark manifestations of cultural norms and sexist and racist structures in our workplaces that value women—and especially women of color—less.
This Equal Pay Day, we must continue to expose and address overt discrimination as well as the implicit biases that hinder women’s security and success, including and especially working to close the gender wage gap once and for all.
Join us today, April 10th, for a social media storm at 2 pm EST and Facebook live events from 4-5 pm EST as we demand #equalpay. 
And mark your calendars and join us throughout the year as we continue to fight for equal pay, and recognize the disproportionate impact that the gender wage gap has on women of color:  
August 7: Black Women’s Equal Pay Day
September 27: Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day
November 1: Latina Equal Pay Day