Letters to the Editor: April 5 – 11, 2018
It’s Time to Improve Virginia’s Equal Pay Laws
On Tuesday, April 10 the American Association of University Women will recognize Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when women’s earnings finally catch up to what white men earned in 2017. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the median earnings for women working full time, year-round is only 80 percent of what men working full time, year-round make. And, the situation is even worse for most women of color. On average, African American women make just 63 percent, Native American women make 57 percent, and Latina women make only 54 percent of what white men make.
The wage gap between men and women isn’t just a number; it’s an economic issue for many families. A 2016 Center for American Progress study found that the mother is the sole or primary wage earner in 42 percent of households with children under the age of 18. Pay equity is the key to families making ends meet and a critical component to strengthening their health, opportunities, and futures.
The pay gap is not caused solely by differences in career and lifestyle choices made by men and women. AAUW’s 2012 report controlled for many factors such as college major, occupation, industry, region, workplace flexibility, parenthood and hours worked and found that one year after graduating from college, women still earned seven percent less than their male counterparts.
In Virginia, women face a pay gap of 20 cents, earning 80 percent of what a white man earns. Virginia ranks 23 out of all the states and the District of Columbia. This translates into less money for feeding families, health care, paying off student loans, and saving for retirement. Passing a federal law like the Paycheck Fairness Act would help protect everyone in all states. But until that happens, each state will continue operating under antiquated regulations and piecemeal state and local laws to combat unequal pay. As we wait for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, Virginia AAUW members will continue to urge the state legislature to make improvements to equal pay laws so that fair pay is an accessible reality for everyone.
President, AAUW Falls Church Area
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