Since the equal pay act of 1963, the gender pay gap has been improving at an extremely slow pace. Women in 1963 were paid approximately 60 cents on the dollar compared to men. In 2015, we have not made a great deal of progress. Women are only making 78 cents on the dollar as men. That means we have only increased by 18 cents over 50 years! Economist, Evelyn Murphy, who is president of the federal wage project, has estimated that over a lifetime of working (47 years), women have lost a total of the following in wages; High school graduates lost $700,000, college graduates lost $1.2 million, and professional school graduates lost $2 million.
The wage gap not only has an effect on women’s present financial situations and ability to save for retirement, but also shows that the lower wages result in lower contributions to their social security benefits. This results in decreased social security benefits for women due to the fact that benefits are determined by the amount of lifetime contributions. In 2012, a 65-year-old woman’s average social security benefit was $12,520 annually, as compared to that of 65-year-old male at $16,396. Coupled with the fact that women have lower savings then men due to the lower pay rates, and women’s longevity compared to men in general, we are seeing double the amount of women over 65 who live below the poverty line. If the pay gap were closed, in addition of women earning more, saving more and receiving higher Social Security benefits, women would also be contributing a lot more to social security which would be beneficial for everyone.
The gender pay gap is not only a national problem. We see this gender pay gap as well on an international level. CNN reports that the United States ranks 65th out of 142 countries in the world regarding the gender pay gap. The top countries were Burundi at 83 percent, Singapore and Norway at 80 percent. Italian women only made 48 percent of the male salary, and Israel just 47 percent. The lowest percentages are seen in Syria, Pakistan, and Jordan. This is clearly an international issue for women all over the world. Action needs to be taken to change not only our nation, but also the entire world.
There are several steps we can take as women to help bridge this gap. Public awareness of this issue is essential. In addition, many experts agree women must learn to better negotiate their salaries with potential employers. However, negotiation skills are tricky for women because sometimes self-promotion, which works for males, may backfire on them. Some tactics that have shown to be effective for women are knowing what your skills are worth, exhibiting a positive attitude and discussing common goals and what they personally would bring to the table. There are workshops that can help to educate women on how to become successful negotiators. Another way we can improve the gap is to encourage our corporations to be fair to all employees. Companies can use audits to monitor and address gender pay differences. Companies should know that paying fairly is the ethical and legal thing to enforce. It would also improve productivity and overall morale for their female employees. In addition to the equal pay act of 1963, President Obama signed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which offers more protection against unfair pay. This act allows women to file a claim against the company for 180 days after the discrimination of pay occurs. The AAUW website offers information and support to help women fight for their right to equal pay.
Most economists agree that we have not seen a significant improvement of the gender pay gap in the last 50 years. Closing the gender pay gap would help not only the women of our country, but our entire economy as well as our social security program. We must all take steps to educate ourselves on this issue by reading the many government reports that are available online to raise our awareness. Women, as a whole, must be able to better negotiate our salaries, and hold employers accountable for discrimination. The media continues to discuss this issue, and economists continue to conduct reports and analyze this 78 percent national pay gap. We must continue as individuals to work on closing this gap by some of the methods discussed as well as coming up with new ways to help. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.