Women have been experiencing pay discrimination for centuries and unfortunately it continues to do so today. In fact, ‘women make 79 cents for each dollar earned by men, although they make up nearly 50 percent of today’s workforce’ (Exchange, 2015). In a capitalist society that thrives on diversity and competition, this problem negatively affects the economy and commerce. This analysis will focus on this social issue that has been a tremendous problem in this country and the policy (The Equal Pay Act) that was created to specifically address this problem.
The Social Issue
At the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette used her speech to advocate for equal pay for every woman: ‘To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America (Guardian, 2015).’ In 1963, the US federal government voted for the Equal Pay Act to address the wage inequality between men and women (Commission, n.d.). Fifty-two years later we are still fighting for equal pay for equal work because women’s income still lags behind her male counterpart. For instances, with a little over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, single-parent households where the woman is the sole provider, struggle to make ends meet due to insufficient income because women earn less than men (Prevention, 2013). Lower pay in turn leads to less family income and higher poverty level in families with a working female. Although the number varies, it is recorded in literature and statistical reports that women earn between 71-78 cents for each dollar men earn (Charles, 1899).
The Human Condition
Unequal pay has a profound impact on a woman’s economic security in her formative as well as senior years in life. Not only does pay inequality affect a woman income after taxes, it also affects benefits earned and provided for similar work. The benefits of ensuring that women obtain equal pay are that it will put more money into the Social Security fund because of taxes taken out. In addition, it will ensure financial protection for women in their senior years because it will help women save more money for retirement so they don’t have to rely on social security or spousal benefits. Furthermore, women won’t be dependent on social security because of lost wages in the senior years. This could make a difference between healthcare and hunger. It would also alleviate the burden of children having to take care of the elderly parents. On a national level, if women were paid fairly, it would help decrease the national debt when you take into consideration the fact that women make up ?? of the workforce (Economist, 2015).
The population that is directly affected by this policy is women. Yes, one may not be able to save the world; however, if you help women, it will create a better civilization for mankind in general. If you think about it, women are public servants inside and outside of the home. After all, women are the ones who nurture the young and mostly likely are the ones giving or providing care to the disabled and the elderly. Equal pay for women means there is a greater probability they can earn a comparable income that allows them to support their family. According to the Center for American Progress, ‘the economic downturn of 2008-09 resulted in men losing their jobs at a higher rate than women’ (Warner, 2014). Thereby, on the other hand, place a greater burden on women to earn a larger income by any means necessary.
Although the Equal Pay Act was created to address and minimize the gap between the pay of men and women, the gap between minority women is significantly wider with African American women earning 64 – 68 cents; Latinas 54 – 58 cents to the dollar compared to Caucasian women with 78 cents (Reports, 2013). This trend continues even when they have the same educational background. What this shows is that educational background isn’t the only obstacle that minority women face when it comes to equal pay. One other possible explanation can be discrimination, which if used in the work place can be problematic. Even though the gender pay gap affects all women, for African American and Hispanic/Latina women, it is an even bigger obstacle that can dramatically affect the communities in which they reside. Therefore, if equal pay for equal work is to be beneficial to all, legislation must specifically highlight and make provisions that directly affect women of minority groups as well as women in general. The following table illustrates by percentage, the disparity that women face compared to men of their own race as well as Caucasian men (Reports, 2013).
The literature review reveals that numerous bills have been drafted to address this issue but often it is hard to get them passed into law. The Paycheck Fairness Act, the Fair Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Act are some of the bills enacted to help the Equal Pay Act (Center, 2015). The Paycheck Fairness Act helps to remove obstacles in the Equal Pay Act to facilitate plaintiffs’ participation in class action lawsuits that challenge systemic pay discriminations (Center, 2015). The Fair Pay Act is an additional act that directly affects the Equal Pay Act by holding employers accountable because employees will have to be paid equally for jobs that are comparable in skill, efforts, responsibility and working conditions regardless of gender (Center, 2015). Through the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Labor Department works to make it easier for women to learn about the Equal Pay Act by educating them about the pay gap and how to take actions to protect their rights (Center, 2015). Granted these acts were created with the purpose of helping the Equal Pay Act, they were used with no avail because women of minority backgrounds are still experiencing unequal pay. The Equal Pay Act specifically addresses the inequality between men and women but not within racial boundaries.