WASHINGTON — The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Churches issued the following statement recognizing the 55th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 on June 10:
“As we remember today the historic Equal Pay Act of 1963, we also recognize while equal pay has been the law of the land for more than half a century, women’s pay still lags behind men’s.
In 1963, women made 59 cents for every dollar a man made. Since then, the gap has closed by 39 cents — but we still have 20 cents to go. Currently, the average gap for all women is now 80 cents on the dollar compared to all men. And the gap remains much larger for black women (63 cents on the dollar compared to white men) and for Latinas (54 cents on the dollar compared to white men). In fact, the Latina pay gap is still wider today than the gap for all women was when the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963.
So why does the gender pay gap persist despite having a federal equal pay law? The reality is that a law on the books does not mean automatic change, and times have changed since it was signed into law. Even as he signed legislation, President John F. Kennedy noted the Equal Pay Act was a “first step.” Courts have weakened the law over time and we have learned a lot more about the types of deterrents strong federal civil rights laws need. Moreover, other economic, social, and cultural factors impede implementation.
In recent years, AAUW has been proud to stand with those working to address the problems that perpetuate the pay gap. We’ve been inspired by the brave actions of Lilly Ledbetter, who took her quest for pay equity all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. She lost her case on a technicality, but she kept pushing forward alongside AAUW and coalition partners to help spearhead the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 to rectify the loss. And Aileen Rizo, one of our Legal Advocacy Fund recipients, just won a major victory in the Ninth Circuit, after suffering a prior loss under the Equal Pay Act’s “factors other than sex” loophole. The Ninth Circuit held that prior salary alone cannot justify a wage differential between men and women doing the same job.
Now is the time for continued progress toward pay equity. Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill designed to strengthen the Equal Pay Act.
Key provisions in the act include: prohibit retaliation against employees for discussing wages; prohibit employers from using salary history to set pay; tighten the “factor other than sex” employer defense to require companies to show that pay disparities are a job-related business necessity; require the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect pay data disaggregated by sex, race, and national origin; strengthen penalties on employers that violate fair pay practices; and provide grants for negotiation trainings that empower women to define and ask for their value.
Until the Paycheck Fairness Act passes, we must work for changes in other areas. AAUW has been advocating to advance pay equity laws in states, to encourage employers to adopt fair pay practices, and empower women themselves to negotiate their own financial futures. As one major stride, this year, AAUW set a goal of training 10 million women in salary negotiation through our Work Smart workshops by 2022 – helping each woman individually while creating a bigger movement.
We can make inequities in pay part of our history, not our future.”