US women’s paychecks will not catch up to men’s for another 40 years at the current rate of improvement, experts say, a situation US president Barack Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address, calling for policy changes he hopes will close the gap sooner.
“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work,” Obama said in his address on Tuesday. “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”
Women who work full time make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That disparity has pushed more women into poverty despite higher educational levels, according to labor experts and women’s rights advocates. The gender pay gap narrowed greatly between the 1960s and 1990s, but the momentum has slowed. At the current rate, it is expected to close by 2056.
“It’s really tied to the fact that our current workplace policies haven’t been updated to reflect the fact that the workplace has changed,” said Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center. Women comprise nearly half of the US workforce according to US Labour Department data. Women are also the sole or primary breadwinners for about 40 percent of US households with children below 18, according to the Pew Research Center.
Obama is pushing Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Senate bill that would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with co-workers. It also would require employers to show that any pay discrepancies are tied to job performance, not gender.
Women’s labor rights advocates see that bill as important for women to combat pay discrimination and win higher wages. Many private employers prohibit employees from sharing information about what they earn.
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