Equal Pay Day 2016

Happy Equal Pay DayIt feels odd wishing someone a happy equal pay day. Happy? Equal Pay Day is the day at which women’s wages on the whole catch up to that of men’s wages from the prior year. It’s calculated using the figures about how many cents on the dollar women earn vs men, 78c. This day has been gaining in visibility over the past couple decades since it began in 1996.

How did equal pay day come to be?

Let’s go back to the Equal Pay Act; an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act aimed at correcting wage disparity based on sex. This was signed in 1963, when women on the whole earned 59c to the male dollar. In 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) developed Equal Pay Day to create public awareness about the gap between men’s and women’s wages. Equal pay day events have since been held annually across the United States and around the world from Costa Rica to Germany to Belgium.

Barack Obama brought further attention to Equal Pay Day in his annual proclamations. He further addressed equal pay by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act and created task forces to uncover and correct pay inequities. Additionally, whitehouse.gov provides a hub to that gives complete descriptions of legislation and provides visitors with documents to help understand their rights.

On Equal Pay Day in 2016, the wage gap will have narrowed to 78 cents on the dollar. Today’s gap is much closer than in 1963, although the narrowing of the gap is moving at a slow pace—less than 40 cents a year.


I’ve seen articles saying the pay gap is a myth—is it?

The notion of a pay gap can be controversial. PayScale completed a thorough analysis of gender pay data, and found that when you control for compensable factors—like years of experience, job, and education, among others—the gap narrows to 2.7%. So what’s really going on here?

Much of the gap between women’s wages and men’s wages emerges when you look more broadly at the types of jobs that are typically filled by women vs by men—women historically fill roles that pay less. For example, tech jobs tend to be high paying jobs, and women fill these roles much less often.


When we compare all women in all jobs to all men and all jobs, we see the 78 cents on the dollar gap. Many theories as to why this is exist, but we do find that women get promoted less often and earn less when they do.


What can I do?

  1. Examine the pay practices within your organization. PayScale’s new reporting features will help you pinpoint issue areas. Take the LEAD on gender pay equity:

L – Look for potential pay equity issues.

E – Evaluate the issues, talk to managers, determine the rationale for any discrepancies, etc.

A – Act. Think strategically about how to best address a potential gap in your organization and determine the best approach.

D – Discuss solutions.

2. Make sure you’re up on the legislation in your area. California and New York have both passed stricter laws protecting fair pay. In addition, new reporting has been proposed to make pay inequity more visible. Even if you aren’t in CA or NY, if you have employees working there, you’re on the hook.

3. Wear red! Wearing red symbolizes how far women are in the red when it comes to pay. Show your support for narrowing the gender pay gap by wearing red on April 12th.

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