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March 31 was Equal Pay Day. But it wasn't a day to celebrate - there's more work to do.

The United States just celebrated its 24th Equal Pay Day, but women are still lagging behind their male counterparts when it comes to their incomes.

March 31 was Equal Pay Day. But it wasn't a day to celebrate - there's more work to do.
Image Source: Getty Images

Every year, we celebrate Equal Pay Day. It was first observed in the year 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, which is a coalition of women's and civil rights organizations, labor unions, professional associations and individuals fighting to erase wage discrimination. The actual date differs from year to year, but in 2020, we celebrate the symbolic occasion on March 31. However, it wasn't really a day to celebrate. That's because there is still more work to be done. In the United States, it takes about three months for a woman to earn as much as a man does, CNN reports. That number can change based on race; a black woman, for example, will take longer to earn as much as a white man does. That's not okay.



As per the most recent US Census data that is available, women earn 81.6 cents for every dollar that men make. When you break that down additionally by race, the gap only grows for most race groups. Latina women make the least in comparison to a man's dollar: 54 cents. The gap closes slightly for Native American women (who make 57 cents for every dollar a man does) and more for Black women (they make 62 cents for every dollar). Asian American and Pacific Islander women, however, make on average 92 cents for every dollar. However, the gap grows if you break it down into specific Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.



Thankfully, there has been some progress in the past few years. In 1969, women made only 60.5 percent of what men made, but decades later, in 2018, they made 82 percent of what men made. This could be a result of several different factors. Gender experts suggest that the fact that women are now obtaining higher levels of education could be a major reason behind the narrower pay gap. Moreover, women have also been entering fields, specifically those of science and technology, that are traditionally dominated by men. Perhaps another factor could be because of active advocacy for and increased awareness of equal rights.



Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute said in an interview with CNN, "Some of the #MeToo movement definitely would have to do with equal pay and making sure that women get their due in the workplace. It's not just equal pay. It's also promotions and opportunities." Of course, all the issues that women struggle with at the workplace intersect in order to sustain the existing pay gap. Therefore, in order to fully end wage discrimination, workplaces need to be more inviting to and inclusive of women on all fronts. And why is that? Because "when women do well, everybody does well," Shannon Williams of the Equal Pay Today campaign affirmed.



"If women could be making what they should be making, what their male counterparts are making, the economy would be doing much better," she added. "If we're really serious about making sure that women, particularly women of color are earning the money that they deserve, then we need to make sure that we're making our voices heard this (election) year." As the 2020 Presidential elections loom closer, voters must demand that their candidates, regardless of party affiliation, pay attention to the gender pay gap and do more to close it definitively.



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