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Gender pay gap isn't closing - and signs point to a divide wider ahead

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Tue, Sep 15th 2020 02:45 pm

Guest Editorial by the American Association of University Women

AAUW CEO Kimberly Churches issued the following statement in response to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau:

“Another year, another frustrating statistic for American women and their families: The wage gap between men and women once again has barely budged. As unfathomable as it seems, numbers don’t lie: Women still are paid just 82 cents for every dollar paid to a man. Black women are paid just 63 cents and Latinas 55 cents compared to what white men earn.

“These numbers reflect a very slight narrowing over last year’s numbers: In 2018, on average women earned 81.6 cents for every dollar paid to men, compared to 82.3 cents in 2019; Black women were paid 62% of white, non-Hispanic men’s wages in 2018, compared to 63% in 2019; and Latinas made 54% of white, non-Hispanic men’s wages in 2018 compared to 55% in 2019. Those changes reflect a hint of movement, but hardly enough to make a difference in our bank accounts. And strikingly, the pay gap actually widened for Asian women, who were paid 89% of white, non-Hispanic men’s wages in 2018, compared to 87% in 2019.

“If that’s not bad enough, the situation will get even worse: These new figures reflect wages from 2018 to 2019, and there’s every indication that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout could actually widen the gap in 2020. Women have been disproportionately affected by furloughs and unemployment during the pandemic, largely because so many hold jobs in the industries that have shrunk amidst the pandemic. Women of color have been especially hard hit, confronting the cascading effects of both economic and health insecurity.

“What’s more, the challenges of caretaking – exacerbated by virtual schooling, closed day care centers and isolated seniors – have taken a significant toll on women’s careers. With women still shouldering the bulk of domestic responsibilities, many have no other option but to reduce their work hours, put off advancement opportunities or quit their jobs altogether. That reality will compound the difficulties of achieving pay equity any time soon.

“But we are not giving up in our battle to demand the equitable wages that most Americans agree women deserve. In fact, the stagnant numbers – and the glaring unfairness of it all – inspire us to work even harder to ensure economic security for women and their families.

“AAUW will continue to advocate for laws and policies aimed at increasing salary transparency, which has been shown to help equalize pay. We will work to increase the number of states, localities and private employers that ban the use of salary history to set wages, and we will ramp up our efforts to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act and strengthen state laws around the country. We will continue to partner with American employers to reimagine their workplace models, which are still based on an outdated notion of how families live and work. And we will double down on our efforts to ensure all workers have access to paid sick and caregiving leave as well as safe, reliable and affordable child care.

“The events of 2020 have made it painfully obvious that we need to accelerate our work on behalf of American women, particularly women of color. We need to seize this moment to forge ahead in the movement for equity. We cannot and will not grow complacent about a wage gap that is robbing American women and their families of the economic security they deserve.”

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through research, education and advocacy. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and more than 800 college and university members. Learn more and join us at www.aauw.org.

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