Imagine losing $360,000. This is a reality for the typical working woman. Over a lifetime of work, women lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement and Social Security dollars because of the gender wage gap. According to data from the American Community Survey, women college graduates just one year out of school earned but 80 percent of what their male counterparts made. The persistent wage gap (women earn, on average, 23 percent less than men) continues to affect the economic security of women and their families.
For Michigan women, according to the American Association of University Women's "The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap," wage disparity has not only stalled, it's risen to 28 percent. Women now represent 50 percent of the work force, and a third of employed mothers are sole breadwinners for their families. For women of color, income disparity widens even more, as African American women earn 33 percent less than white men, and Latina women 42 percent less.
Women serve as a barometer for the health of a society.
The wage gap means fewer dollars for food, housing, clothing and health care. Women don't get a special discount card when they take their dollars into the marketplace. That's why AAUW continues to advocate for strong pay-equity legislation, regulation and enforcement.
The Simple Truth is:
* The financial sector pays women in jobs with the biggest salary gap from 55 cents to 62 cents for every dollar made by men, according to the U.S. Census.
* "The typical woman loses $431,000 in pay over a 40-year career. The career wage gap is at least $300,00 in 12 states, $400,000 in 23 states, $500,000 in 10 states and exceeds $600,000 for women living in Wyoming and Alaska." (American Community Survey)
* In 2010, women working full time in the United States still earned just 77 percent, on average, of what men earn. And for Hispanic/Latina (60 percent) and African American (70 percent) women, the gap is even wider. (The Simple Truth -- AAUW)
Equal Pay Day is April 17. This date symbolizes how far into 2012 women must work to earn what men earned in 2011. Equal Pay Day was established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages.
As part of nationwide activities, AAUW continues to raise awareness and advocacy about the issue of women's economic security. You can show your support by participating in events in your local communities. On April 17, at the Capitol Rotunda in Lansing, Mich., AAUW of Michigan, in coalition with 23 nonprofit and advocacy organizations, will hold an Equal Pay Day event that will include a press conference and the lobbying of state legislators. If unable to attend the event at the State Capitol, you can still make your voice heard by taking action April 16-20 at the AAUW of Michigan website. Click on the red Equal Pay Day banner at http://www.aauwmi.org and send a personal message urging legislators to pass pay-equity bills.
Current bills before the Michigan Senate and House concern pay-equity issues that strengthen the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act, which opposes sex-based wage discrimination, establishes a pay-equity study commission to provide technical assistance, wage transparency and an increase of penalties for wage discrimination based on gender. Let's see that they pass.
Watkins is a writer and resides in Michigan. She is AAUW of Michigan president-elect and AAUW Detroit Branch co-president.