wage gap exists, in part, because many women and people of color are still segregated into a few low-paying occupations. More
than half of all women workers hold sales, clerical and service jobs. Studies show that the more an occupation is dominated
by women or people of color, the less it pays. Part of the wage gap results from differences in education, experience or time
in the workforce. But a significant portion cannot be explained by any of those factors; it is attributable to discrimination.
In other words, certain jobs pay less because they are held by women and people of color.
Q: Hasn't the
wage gap closed considerably in recent years?
wage gap has narrowed by about ten percentage points during the last seventeen years, ranging from 62 percent in 1982 to 73
percent in 2000. Since 1973 however, approximately 60 percent of the change in the wage gap is due to the fall in men's real
earnings. About 40 percent of the change in the wage gap is due to the increase in women's wages. The wage gap has fluctuated
often, ranging from a low of 57 percent in the early 1970's, and peaking at 74 percent in 1997.
Q: Is it possible
to compare different jobs?
employers have used job evaluations for nearly a century to set pay and rank for different occupations within a company or
organization. Today, two out of three workers are employed by firms that use some form of job evaluation. The federal government,
the nation's largest employer, has a 70-year old job evaluation system that covers nearly two million employees.
Q: Who really
needs pay equity?
people of color, and white men who work in jobs that have been undervalued due to race or sex bias need pay equity. Many of
these workers are the sole support for their families. In addition, it is estimated that 70 percent of women with children
under 18 work outside the home. (Up from 44.9 percent twenty years ago.) Discriminatory pay has consequences as people age
and across generations. Everyone in society is harmed by wage discrimination. Therefore, everyone needs pay equity.
Q: Is pay equity
an effective anti-poverty strategy?
pay equity helps workers become self-sufficient and reduces their reliance on government assistance programs. A recent study
found that nearly 40 percent of poor working women could leave welfare programs if they were to receive pay equity wage increases.
Pay equity can bring great savings to tax payers at a minimal cost to business. Adjustments would cost no more than 3.7 percent
of hourly wage expenses.
Q: Will the wages
of white men be reduced if pay equity is implemented?
Federal law prohibits reducing pay for any employee to remedy discrimination. Furthermore, male workers in female-dominated
jobs benefit when sex discrimination is eliminated, as do white workers in minority-dominated jobs. Pay equity means equal
treatment for all workers.
Q: Will achieving
pay equity require a national wage-setting system?
pay equity does not mandate across-the-board salaries for any occupation, nor does it tamper with supply and demand. It merely
means that wages must be based on job requirements like skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions without consideration
of race, sex, or ethnicity.
Q: Doesn't pay
equity cost employers too much?
where pay equity legislation meant raises for 30,000 state employees, the cost was only 3.7 percent of the state's payroll
budget over a four-year period--less than one percent of the budget each year. In Washington
State, pay equity was achieved at a cost of 2.6 percent of the state's personnel
costs and was implemented over an eight-year period. Voluntary implementation of pay equity is cost effective, while court-ordered
pay equity adjustments can lead to greater costs. Discrimination is costly and illegal.
Q: Are wage inequalities
the result of women's choices?
part of the wage gap is attributed to differences in education, experiences and time in the work force. However, the overwhelming
evidence that wage discrimination persists in America can
be found in numerous court cases and legal settlements, Department of Labor investigations, surveys of men and women on the
job, and salary surveys that control for age, experience and time in the workforce. While women sometimes take time out of
the workforce to raise children, it should be noted that when couples are deciding who should stay home with children, the
fact that the wife is earning a lower salary impacts that decision. In addition, some of the other explainable factors can
sometimes be attributed to discrimination. For example, if women and men have different jobs in a company, women may not be
choosing the lower paying jobs. They may have trouble advancing in a company due to bias about women's abilities or levels
Q: Will implementing
pay equity disrupt the economy?
The Equal Pay Act, minimum wage, and child labor laws all provoked the same concerns and all were implemented without major
disruption. What disrupts the economy and penalizes families is the systematic underpayment of some people because of their
sex or race. When wages for women and people of color are raised, their purchasing power will increase, strengthening the
economy. One survey found that a growing number of businesses support the elimination of wage discrimination between different
jobs as "good business" and that pay equity is consistent with remaining competitive.
Q: What is the
status of efforts to achieve pay equity?
equity is a growing national movement building on the progress made in the 1980s, when twenty states made some adjustments
of payrolls to correct for sex or race bias. (Seven of these states successfully completed full implementation of a pay equity
plan. Twenty-four states including Washington, DC conducted
studies to determine if sex was a wage determinant. Four states examined their compensation systems to correct race bias,
In the last 2-3 years,
bills have been introduced in over 25 legislatures. On the federal level, the Fair Pay Act has been introduced in the U.S.
House of Representatives by Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, and in the U.S. Senate by Senator Tom Harkin. The Fair Pay Act
would expand the Equal Pay Act's protections against wage discrimination to workers in equivalent jobs with similar skills
and responsibilities, even if the jobs are not identical. In addition, the Paycheck Fairness Act has been introduced in the
U.S. Senate by Senator Tom Daschle and in the U.S. House by Representative Rosa DeLauro. The Paycheck Fairness Act would amend
the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide more effective remedies to workers who are not being paid equal
wages for doing equal work.
Q: What can I
do about pay equity?
you need more information on how to resolve a personal situation involving unfair pay, you can call:
The Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000
The Equal Rights
Advocates (ERA) Advice and Counseling Hotline at 800-839-4372