Welcome to Equal Pay Day 2021: the date marking how far into 2021 an average working woman needs before she earns the same as an average working man did during 2020. Overall, women make 82 cents to every white man’s dollar. That gap wides for BIPOC ladies: Latina’s average around 59 cents to each white man’s dollar and Black women earn around 64 cents. Mom’s get their own disparity too, they get paid about 71 cents compared to a Dad’s earned dollar.
The good news is that the gender wage gap narrowed in 2020. But if you’re thinking “wait, didn’t I hear a whole bunch of talk about how lots of women dropped out of the workforce because of the pandemic… I think the word ‘she-session’ was used… how could the wage gap narrow if 4x as many women lost their jobs?” then you, my friend, are on the right track.
Women hold — or maybe I should say held — a disproportionate number of the low-paying frontline jobs: about 2/3rds of serving, cashiering, cleaning, care taking, etc. roles. 58% of workers earning the minimum wage are women. These are the jobs that were laid off when the pandemic struck. Cutting these jobs out of the wage gap data effectively raises the floor on the numbers. But it doesn’t mean those women went away.
Additionally, when it became clear that the US did not have a domestic safety net, families scrambled to figure out how to take care of children at home. Instead of jobs that would allow families to take a step back from work, this country has jobs that demands a worker’s full 40+ hours of attention weekly. This mindset meant that families had to make a choice: someone’s job or the kids? And when the woman of the family is already earning less (because her employer expects she will take a step back from her career someday… talk about a SNATCH 22), the decision about who will give up their career for the good of the family becomes easy. This, again, resulted in lower-earning roles getting cut out of the wage gap data.
For people in both of these situations, regardless of gender, there are major monetary consequences to taking time out of the workforce. But, here again, women are penalized more than men. Men who took a year out of the labor market between 2001 and 2015 reported a 12% cut in their salary, while women who reported the same gap in job history had a 39% drop.
The thing that gets me though, is that this isn’t about how many extra days into the next year the average women has to work. It isn’t about the 18 cents per dollar the average woman lost in 2020 compared to the average man. It’s about how that disadvantage multiplies over a lifetime. According to a PayScale study on the wage gap, that average woman will lose out on $850,000 in earnings over the course of a 40 year career. Eight-Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars. In lost wages.
“Happy” Equal Pay Day, everyone.
- National Women’s Law Center, https://nwlc.org/issue/equal-pay-and-the-wage-gap/
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research, https://iwpr.org/iwpr-publications/the-weekly-gender-wage-gap-by-race-and-ethnicity-2020/
- Center for Economic and Policy Research, https://cepr.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2020-04-Frontline-Workers.pdf
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research, https://iwpr.org/iwpr-issues/employment-and-earnings/still-a-mans-labor-market-the-slowly-narrowing-gender-wage-gap/