Charlotte A. Burrows
This year’s Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned the year before, is March 15.
Women who work full time in the United States make the median weekly ofjust 83 cents for every dollar paid to men. And the pay gap is even wider for women of color, mothers of young children and women with disabilities. Black women make just 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, while Latinas are paid just 57 cents on every dollar.
Strong and resilient women:USA TODAY’s Women of the Year have been champions of change and courage
While unequal pay is a persistent problem, there is growing consensus that the time has come to solve it. Across the country, state and local governments are working to advance equal pay. From prohibiting the use of salary history in hiring to requiring transparency around salary ranges, lawmakers have introduced legislation in more than two-thirds of states aimed at closing the pay gap.
More people are recognizing that not only is equal pay a matter of basic fairness, it is also good for families and businesses. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, closing the pay gap would cut the poverty rate for working women in half and lift more than 2.5 million children out of poverty.
The ‘gender pay gap’ doesn’t exist:Paycheck Fairness Act treats women as victims, not equals
Closing the gap also would improve the financial security of many families and strengthen the economy as our country builds back from a difficult two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately deepened existing inequalities and has only made the problem of unequal pay more urgent.
Realizing a dream of equality
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was built on a dream delivered in the heat of an August afternoon in Washington. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream became the EEOC’s mission, and we work to turn this vision of equal opportunity for all into reality.
It’s been almost 60 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and since the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in pay based on race, sex, color, national origin and religion. While we have made progress, significant and unjustified pay disparities persist.
As chair of the EEOC, I am committed to working across the government and with industry and civil rights partners to find innovative solutions to tackle the critically important issue of ending pay discrimination. The EEOC is working hard to address pay discrimination and other forms of discrimination that contribute to unjustified gaps in pay.
It is appropriate that Equal Pay Day falls during Women’s History Month because women continue to file a disproportionate number of the charges of wage discrimination the EEOC receives each year. Between fiscal years 2017 and 2021, womenfiled 91.7% of the 5,044 Equal Pay Act charges and 65.4% of the 19,055 Title VII wage charges the agency received.
The EEOC has recovered millions of dollars for workers paid unequal wages in the administrative process and in litigation, as well as achieving significant remedial steps to prevent future violations.
Triumphs to celebrate, more to come
On this year’s Equal Pay Day, we can celebrate the recent equal pay settlement between the U.S. women’s national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation, in which the EEOC filed a friend-of-the-court brief. Though the settlement is pending a collective bargaining agreement, the $24 million would establish just compensation for years of pay discrimination against the female players and mandates for equal pay going forward.
But the biggest history women can make is still in progress – pay fairness for all, regardless of sex, and regardless of race, national origin, color, religion, age or disability.
We won’t need an Equal Pay Day once this is an Equal Pay Nation. To do that, we need the Paycheck Fairness Act to become law. This bill, supported by President Joe Biden’s administration, would strengthen and expand the Equal Pay Act, giving workers more tools to fight sex-based pay discrimination, such as making wages more transparent, requiring that employers prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender, prohibiting retaliation against employees who raise concerns, and more.
Let’s finish the job and live up to our nation’s most deeply held values of equality, fairness and justice.
Charlotte A. Burrows was designated by President Joe Biden as chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Jan. 20, 2021. She was initially nominated to serve as a commissioner of the EEOC in 2014 and then was renominated in 2019.