In 2014, women in the United States were paid 79 per cent of what men were paid.
This statistic should shock me, but it doesn’t. Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s revolutionary claim that “it’s 2016”, women are still facing incredible adversity in the workplace. Similar statistics have been shared, and re-shared, and re-shared every year — but nothing seems to change.
That’s why this date is so important.
April 12th marks Equal Pay Day in the United States, the symbolic day in which a woman’s salary from the previous year catches up to that of their male counterparts. What does that mean exactly? On average it takes a woman three and a half extra months to make the same amount in salary a man earns in a year.
Despite the slow decline in the wage gap, the country still has a long way to go. The Institute for Women’s Policy Initiatives predicts that women won’t see equal pay until 2059, which is absolutely ridiculous. And a new report published by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) says on average, women in the United States earn about $10,800 less per year than men.
According to this report, women of colour face an even greater challenge. African-American women on average are paid only 60 cents per every dollar made by a white man, and Hispanic women are only paid 55 cents. The report also attributes about 40 per cent of that wage gap to sexism and discrimination.
Considering how far we’ve come, it’s startling that this type of gap exists in North America. The world is on the verge of a feminist wave — politicians, celebrities, and activists are all talking about women’s rights on public platforms — but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure true equality.
But, what’s even worse is that the gap increases when it comes to positions of power. In the United States, women make up only four per cent of CEOs and 16 per cent of the board members at the 1500 companies reviewed by the JEC. Without women in positions of power, there is no way to change the sexist mentalities that exist within the business world.
The question is: how do we change this mentality? Education and awareness is the number one solution, but it’s not enough. Equal pay laws must be enforced and men and women must stand together and demand salaries that are determined not by gender, but by ability.
There are simple ways to ensure that you (and your company) play a part in this revolution. Take the BUY UP Index as an example. This app allows you to make purchasing decisions based on the company’s commitment to gender equality. Criteria for the products listed on the Index includes whether or not the company achieves the benchmark of 16 per cent women on their board and 40 per cent in management, and whether there are leadership programs for women.
Why aren’t people using these types of services to promote and encourage gender equality in the workplace? The Buy Up Index provides a simple way of ensuring that business is conducted with companies that honour the promise of equal pay and treat women with equal respect.
Until every company takes the idea of equal pay seriously and commits to promoting gender equality in the workplace, I fear I’ll continue to be disappointed. Let’s hope that next year the gap decreases significantly — this doesn’t mean by one or two per cent either. In order to be satisfied that the government, and the respective business community, is taking this issue seriously, there would have to be a difference of five per cent.
Do you think that is even possible in today’s political climate? Let us know in the comments below
Ontario’s version of Equal Pay Day will occur on April 19.