Today, as we commemorate Equal Pay Day it is a time to reflect on how far American women have come. Coincidentally, it is also tax day and a fitting reminder of how long into 2012 women must work to earn the wages men earned in 2011. Since the creation of Equal Pay Day 16 years ago, the pay gap between women and men has barely moved — from 74 cents in 1996 to about 80 cents in 2011.
Equal pay has been at the forefront for the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau priorities for more than 90 years. Throughout its history, the Women’s Bureau has served as a catalyst for change, becoming a critical partner in the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
Since 1920, working women in the U.S. labor force have grown from nearly 21 percent to 47 percent. As women comprise nearly half our nation’s workforce, their earnings have become even more central to families’ economic security. Yet, a woman is paid on average only 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man. The pay gap is even greater for women of color and women with disabilities. Even though the pay gap has narrowed since the creation of Equal Pay Day, we still have more to do. Seven cents in 16 years is not enough progress.
Narrowing the wage gap between men and women is an ongoing priority for the Obama administration. Our involvement with the National Equal Pay Task Force has led to educational and awareness efforts such as:
- “Equal Pay App Challenge” in January 2012, a collaborative effort by the department and the National Equal Pay Task Force. Developers were invited to use publicly available data and resources to create applications to help reduce the pay gap for women. The Equal Pay App is an innovative way the Woman’s Bureau is putting the power in the hands of women to know their worth. Today Secretary Solis officially announced the winners.
- Release of two new brochures, entitled “A Guide to Women’s Equal Pay Rights,” and “An Employer’s Guide to Equal Pay Laws” to educate women about their rights under the law and employers about their legal obligations.
- Sponsorship of four briefings to highlight the plight of America’s most vulnerable workers in partnership with the Department’s Office of Public Engagement and Center for Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. The series brings together national women’s organizations, foundations and government agencies to learn more about the working conditions and gender-based pay equity challenges of vulnerable women workers.
The Women’s Bureau has decades of experience leading the fight for issues that affect the economic security for all women. And, we will continue to represent women, their families and communities nationwide.
To find out more about the Women’s Bureau visit our website at www.dol.gov/wb.
For more information on the Labor Department’s efforts to close the pay gap visit www.dol.gov/equalpay.
Sara Manzano-Díaz is Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.