Today is Equal Pay Day: Women Still Earn 77 Cents to a Man's Dollar

Today, April 12, is Equal Pay Day -- the day when the average full-time woman worker has finally earned the amount of money her male counterpart made in 2010.

That's right, our society continues to face a deep gender pay gap, a full 48 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, which was designed to curb such disparities. Specifically, full-time women workers now earn an average of 77 cents to a man's dollar -- a gap that has closed frustratingly little over the past several decades. In fact, the gap has closed at a rate of less than half a percent per year since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Marlo Thomas vents her frustrations about the persistent gap in the Huffington Post today:

I can't believe we're having another [Equal Pay Day]. I still have my little green button from 1970 -- with "59¢" emblazoned on it -- tacked to my bulletin board. I remember how we all wore that button on our t-shirts as we marched to protest the gender pay disparity of that time. Now we're at 77 cents.

Forty years and 18 cents. A dozen eggs has gone up 10 times that amount.

There are people who undermine the pay gap by citing the women who make 98 cents on every dollar a man makes. But this is an elite group. According to the National Women's Law Center, the vast majority of American women -- working "full-time, year-round" -- are still stuck in that shameful 77-cent zone. The gap, says the National Women's Law Center, translates into "$10,622 less per year in female median earnings."

Elsewhere on the web, Ms. Magazine points us to one of the contributing factors towards the gender pay gap -- job segregation:

One major reason is job segregation by sex. Jobs themselves are gendered, such that women have a tendency to enter feminized occupations and men have a tendency to enter masculinized occupations. How severe is job segregation by sex? In 2010, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that about about 4 in 10 women work in jobs that are 75 percent female; the reverse is true for men.

Overall, masculinized occupations pay more. (This is a different kind of sexism, a sexism against feminine-coded things instead of against women, but sexism nonetheless… for example.) Job segregation, then, contributes to the pay gap between men and women.

In a statement, the National Partnership for Women & Families breaks down the real-world implications of this disparity: if the pay gap were eliminated, working women in Alaska could buy 1.7 years’ worth of food, women in Connecticut could afford 15 more months of rent, Michigan women could make 10 more months of mortgage and utility payments, and Californian women could buy 2,100 more gallons of gas.

And Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville reminds us of the populations hit hardest by the gap:

When you read/hear/think about Equal Pay Day today, remember that it is based on an average: Pay disparities across populations affect women of color, transgender women, women with disabilities, and/or single mothers without parenting help more profoundly....

Pay disparity creates a hole out of which it's incredibly difficult to dig—and every intersectional marginalization of one's identity represents the real possibility that hole will be even deeper than average.

This is important to remember as the GOP advances its agenda of cutting critical services for poor women.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at April 12, 2011, 6:14am