This past Tuesday (April 4th) was the day marked in 2017 when the annual wages of the average woman would catch up to to the annual wages of a white man in the U.S. The average wage gap is 80 cents and based upon this year’s Equal Pay Day observance, it would take until 2059 for the average woman to see pay equity.
In Michigan, the numbers are more dire. The average Michigan woman earns 74.3 cents for every dollar a white man does and it would take until 2084 for us to achieve pay equity. For minority women the wage gap is even more serious. In Michigan, for each dollar earned by a white man, Black women make 63.8 cents, Latinas make 57.5 cents, Asian women (combined) make 95.7 cents and Native American women make 59.4 cents. (Numbers are based on 2015 statistics; see end for sources.)
These wage disparities put women at a lifelong economic disadvantage regardless of whether they take time out of the workforce to have kids and raise young families—an fallacious argument often made by those fighting pay equity. With many women acting as primary breadwinner in their households—whether in a two-earner or single-earner household—the wage gap affects not only the ability to engage in the economy fully by being valued participants of it, the wage gap also affects the ability for women to save for retirement adequately.
When women are valued in real dollars for their contributions to and participation in the workforce, not only do women succeed, their families succeed as does the economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “[as] women’s wages have lagged behind men’s, hourly pay of the vast majority of workers has stalled, even as workers have become more productive. Women’s median wages are far lower today than they would be if we had [already] closed the gender wage gap and ensured all workers share in the benefits of increased productivity.”
It’s clear that we need real policies in place to promote and achieve equal pay today and not only rely on market forces to permit it. We cannot wait until nearly the end of the century for pay equity when our own granddaughters could be grandmothers themselves.
National Women’s Law Center (NWLC):
The Wage Gap State by State nwlc.org/resources/wage-gap-state-state/
American Association of University Women (AAUW):
The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
National Committee on Pay Equity www.pay-equity.org/
Economic Policy Institute (EPI):
Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond www.epi.org/publication/closing-the-pay-gap-and-beyond/
MI State Representative Erika Geiss
Mothering Justice Member