Nearly fifty years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of gender, women still earn significantly less than men for doing the same work.
How much less? In 2012 in Pennsylvania, women were paid $694 per week while their male peers received $849, a pay gap of 18.3 percent.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on Congress to pass pay equity legislation citing a recent report on the continuing gender pay gap.
Casey said that the Senate is scheduled to vote soon on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens the original Equal Pay law in several important ways.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would:
- Close loopholes in affirmative defenses for employers
- Ban retaliation against workers by employers
- Create stricter penalties for any pay disparities
- Fund the training of fair pay inspectors and the training of women on salary negotiations
- Require that the US Department of Labor take affirmative action regarding this issue
- Update and refine the data collecting services that gather salary information.
While the pay gap has narrowed in recent decades, a report this past month from the Joint Economic Committee underscores just how much of a discrepancy remain. The report finds that women are paid just 82 cents for every dollar men receive; in Pennsylvania, it's 81 cents on the dollar.
Casey says that he, being a father of four daughters (two in college and one who has graduated), knows how hard his daughters work in college to get a degree, and therefore be able to make their way in the world.
“The idea that with all that work and all that effort, they’re going to be paid less than a man, year after year, over and over again, and not just over time, but immediately, in their first year of their work life, that’s an insult to not just my daughters, but an insult to every woman in the work force, many of whom had to struggle through other kinds of discrimination, not just pay and equity.”
According to Casey, closing the pay gap is a matter of basic fairness, but the inequity also damages the economy, since women have fewer dollars in their paychecks to put back into their communities.
“A woman with a Bachelor’s degree, and this is particularly disturbing, faces a lifetime earning gap of over $500,000," said Casey. "So because of endemic discrimination, they make half a million dollars less over their lifetime, and that should trouble anyone within the sound of my voice.”
He said on average, over the course of a career, a woman with a Doctoral degree earns as much as a man with a Bachelor’s degree, "another horrific example.”
In recent years, families have become increasingly dependent on women's incomes with nearly nearly half of all mothers working full time. In Allegheny County, approximately 93,677 children are partially dependent on their mother’s income while another 60,382 children are wholly dependent on their mother’s income.
In 2011, there were 1.8 million children in Pennsylvania who were either wholly or partially dependent on the money that their mothers earned. There were a total of 2.8 million children living in Pennsylvania in 2011.