In too many ways, our society tells women that they’re not as valuable as men. It’s in our media – where women comprise only 31% of protagonists. It’s in our textbooks – where men save the day, and women are barely mentioned. It’s in our leadership – where women still comprise only 24% of Congress, and of course, we have never had a female president.
But there’s perhaps no better proof of the way our society has devalued women than Equal Pay Day. This year, it falls on April 2nd– meaning tomorrow marks how far into this year (beyond last year!) the average woman in America must work to earn what the average American man made last year.
When we look only at women of color, we have to go even farther. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is not until August, and Latina women do not reach equal pay until November.
The wage gap is not just unfair – it’s an economic crisis. In California alone, women lose more than $78.6 billion every year to the wage gap. Imagine how this compounds over a lifetime. Imagine how the lost income multiplies into lost opportunities – not just for ourselves, but for our children.
It would be easier to claim that this is someone else’s issue to solve, but the research shows that the wage gap is universal and touches all of us. The gap exists across industries, regardless of education levels, and in all types of work.
And even when we adjust for institutional discrimination like women working in lower paying industries or women holding fewer management positions than men – the gap remains. This means that individual bias against women – especially working mothers – continues to cost us dearly.
These stats are daunting, but the research also shows that when individuals and companies commit to change, meaningful progress on equal pay is possible.
In 2016 and 2017, California took her first steps toward being that change by passing the strongest equal pay laws in the nation. They include protections for gender, race and ethnicity. California recognizes that the wage gap is a form of wage theft and, like employers who steal their workers’ minimum wages or don’t pay overtime, we need to put a stop to it.
The enactment of these laws was historic, codifying that women and men who perform “substantially similar,” not just “equal,” work are to be paid equally. And employees who want to talk or ask about pay while at work can do so now without being retaliated against.
But passing a law is only the first step. In order to move the needle forward, we need to come together to commit to changing the status quo. And that is why the Office of the First Partner of California, California’s Labor Agency, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls and Time’s Up are challenging businesses to commit to pay equity in the workplace and promoting new resources that will allow employees to learn about their rights and employers to learn about their responsibilities.
In other words, a road map has been created, and now it’s our collective turn to take the wheel. Companies can examine hiring practices or commit to doing a pay analysis. Men can step forward to tell their female colleagues what they are paid, and if women believe we are being paid inequitably, we can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner, who will investigate. And each one of us can examine the unconscious biases that persist in our daily lives.
We come at this issue from two different worlds. One of us through policy and enforcement, and one of us through media and culture change. Together, we understand that it’s only when you combine change at all of these levels that true progress is made.
So, we call upon all of you to share our campaign and join us in implementing the strongest equal pay laws in the nation – and showing the rest of the nation what is possible when we do.
Let’s value our daughters as we value our sons. Let’s close the pay gap. Join us.