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It’s Time to Close the Wage Gap

It’s Time to Close the Wage Gap

scale with man and woman on either side

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s important to reflect on the important strides for women’s equality. Over the past year, all combat jobs in the military were opened to women, and female U.S. Olympic athletes won more medals than male athletes in the Rio 2016 games, indicating a rise and emphasis on women’s athletics. It’s also important to reflect on the fact despite these achievements and many more over the past few years, but, women of all races are still being paid less to the dollar than white, non-Hispanic men. 

From the moment a woman enters the labor force, she is affected by the gender wage gap. One study showed that women one year out of college who were working full time earned, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers earned. This is an automatic setback for women. A man and a woman may graduate with the same amount of student debt, but, because she is earning less, it could take longer for the woman to pay it back. The disparity ultimately makes it more difficult for the woman to become debt-free and achieve financial goals.  The wage gap also influences the affordability of childcare and ability to support a family. While childcare costs have increased 70 percent since 1985, wages have remained stagnant.  

Last year, full-time working women were paid 80 percent of what men were paid, and for women of color, the wage gap was even greater. Native American women make 59 cents to the dollar while African American women make 60 cents, and Latinas are paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to a white non-Hispanic man. These are huge disparities, and unfortunately progress in closing the wage gap has been limited, essentially stalling once we reached the 2000’s. Based on analysis of previous advancements on the issue, it is estimated that it will take 136 years to close the gap.  

When a woman is payed less than her male counterpart, it devalues her skills, capabilities and intelligence. Judaism teaches us that all human beings should be treated equally because we were all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God; “And God created humans in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female, God created them” (Genesis 1:27).  

The White House Equal Pay Pledge is contributing to the goal of achieving equal pay in business. Over 70 businesses, including Adobe and Spotify, have made statements signing on to the pledge, showing a commitment to reviewing current policies and conducting pay analyses in order to confront the gender pay gap. In the 114th Congress, the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 862 / H.R. 1619) was introduced to decrease the wage gap. The bill would have deterred pay discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. We hope to see similar legislation introduced in the 115th Congress. With support and advocacy, we may not have to wait until 2152 to see pay equity. 

To learn more about pay equity, visit the RAC’s Pay Equity Advocacy page 

 

 

 

 

Maya H. Weinstein is a law student at the University of North Carolina, where she is pursuing a career in education law. She was a 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she also served as the Legislative Assistant for Women of Reform Judaism. Maya is from Fort Myers, FL, and earned her B.A. from the George Washington University. 

Maya H. Weinstein