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All of Our Reasons for Closing the Wage Gap

All of Our Reasons for Closing the Wage Gap

On April 12, people all across the United States will observe Equal Pay Day, which is the day each year that symbolizes when women’s earnings “catch up” to what their male counterparts earned in the previous year.

The gender wage gap has been a problem for decades, and has persisted even since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Last fall, new data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau announcing women are on average paid 79 cents to every dollar paid to men. At the current rate of change, women will not reach full pay equity until the year 2059. There are so many reasons to care about closing the gender wage gap. Here are a few of mine:

  • I care about pay equity because women should not make less than men, especially depending on their race or where they live. While new Census data shows that on average, women make 79 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earn, this number is even worse for women of color: African American women are paid only 60 cents and Latinas are paid a mere 55 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Pay equity also varies by state, ranging from 65 cents to every dollar in Louisiana to 90 cents on every dollar in Washington, D.C. See the gender wage gap in your state.
  • I care about pay equity because if there is still a wage gap when my friends and I decide to have children, it will impact our families. Two thirds of all households with children under 18 are headed by women who are either the primary or co-breadwinners. Around 30 percent of these households have incomes that fall below the poverty line. Because the gender wage gap impacts not only women, but the entire family, when a woman loses part of her income, her economic security diminishes along with that of her family.
  • I care about pay equity because I am a recent college graduate in the workforce. In one study by the American Association of University Women, women one year out of college who were working full time earned, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers earned. It is very discouraging to know that my contributions, skills and intelligence, just because of my gender, may not be fully valued by future employers.
  • I care about pay equity because I care about women’s healthcare. A woman’s ability to care for her overall health, and more specifically her reproductive health, is intrinsically linked to her economic security. I know that a woman’s self-determination and ability to pursue her aspirations includes her ability to make her own decisions about her reproductive health, which is not always possible with the gender wage gap.
  • I care about pay equity because it aligns with my Reform Jewish values. Jewish tradition has long recognized the importance of paying fair wages. We read, “A society and a family are like a pile of stones. If you remove one stone, the pile will collapse. If you add a stone to it, it will stand” (Midrash Rabbah Genesis 100:7). The impact of women’s lost wages due to the gender pay gap is similar to that of one of these stones. By ensuring that women have pay equity, we are adding the stone of economic security and stability to her and her family. 

There is not a more relevant time than Equal Pay Day to advocate to end the gender wage gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 862 / H.R. 1619) would deter pay discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. In honor of Equal Pay Day, urge your Members of Congress to end pay discrimination and support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

To learn more about pay equity, visit our issue page. You can also access resources on equal pay from Women of Reform Judaism’s website. May this year bring progress in the fight for pay equity for working women and families and in the narrowing of the gender pay gap! 

Tracy Wolf was a 2015-2016 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), and currently serves as the RAC's Leadership Development Associate. Originally from Syosset, N.Y., she is a member of North Shore Synagogue and a graduate of Dickinson College.

Tracy Wolf

Published: 4/12/2016