In 2019, across sectors, women make less money than do men. For white women that number is about 80 percent; for African-American women that number is about 66 percent. So it's a really crucial question: why in today's environment, what is it that structurally prevents women from earning the same wages as men?
Equal Pay Day is actually an important day for us to, not celebrate, but for us to really reflect the history of gender inequality and the disparities between the wages that men and women receive, and this disparity has really been with us since the very beginning of wage labor.
The other thing that pay equality day is meant to represent is the amount of time that it takes for women’s wages to catch up with men’s wages from the beginning of the year, from January 1, and one of the things we have to be very careful about when we talk about pay equality is that women’s pay equality and wage work really differs in connection with a woman’s race, with her ethnicity, although in general women do not make the same wages that men receive.
The U.S. Congress in 1963 passed the Equal Pay Act, and one of the important things about that act was the idea that men and women should be paid equally for equal work. The really big question that has remained, however, is not what equal work is but what comparable work is.
So some of the most famous cases involved the pay disparities between janitors and maids, and the idea was that they should be paid the same wages for the same hours but traditionally were not because janitorial work was considered male work and maids work was considered women’s work.