After Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, women supposedly earned equal pay for equal work. But even today, white women receive only 77 cents to the dollar that white men make, African American women receive 62 cents and Hispanic women only 54.
From bus drivers to lawyers, lobbyists to engineers, women receive unequal pay across a large spectrum of jobs. Without a drastic legislation change, private companies will continue to discriminate against women. Women deserve the same protection granted to other minorities so that they can file suit without backlash from employers.
Currently, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was first proposed to Congress in 1997, has been through eight congresses, yet has been voted on in the Senate only twice. It died in the Senate Tuesday. The Paycheck Fairness Act would have strengthened the terms of the Equal Pay Act, put an end to secrecy in wages, given women the ability to individually or jointly file suit on employers without a cap on the damage and actually stopped the discrimination from occurring in the first place.
Unequal pay distribution hurts women not only while they are employed but also after they retire and receive pension. Because most women are in-and-out of the workforce largely due to having children, medical care and retiring benefits are far inferior for women than for men.
Congresswoman Rosa de Lauro, who represents the Third District of Connecticut, has been fighting for equal pay for women for over fifteen years.
“This is an issue that doesn’t just affect people in their midlife,” de Lauro said. “This affects young people as well. When you get a job with a lower wage, that affects your retirement security.”
Almost fifty years after the Equal Pay Act passed, women still face inequalities in pay that they are unaware of. Due to paycheck secrecy, many women don’t even know they are being paid less than their male counterparts. In order to stop this, not only does the Equal Pay Act need modification through congressional legislation, but advocacy education is needed to spread awareness that inequalities still exist in today’s society.
De Lauro plans on continuing her efforts despite the death of the Act in the Senate.
“This is about men and women in the same job,” de Lauro said. “If you have the same job, you should get the same pay.”