Young Women and Equal Pay: A Call For Action

By Kate Black, Executive Director of American Women, VP of Research at EMILY's List, and Director of the Younger Women's Task Force in Washington, D.C.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a world champion soccer player, an Oscar-winning actress, a teacher, a retail salesperson, a lawyer, or a police officer. Women are paid less across occupations and industries.

Today marks the day that women have had to work to make the same amount as men did in 2015.

Women are paid on average 79 cents for every dollar paid to men.

More women than ever before are graduating with advanced degrees, yet women represent two out of three minimum wage workers. Women are breadwinners in 60 percent of families, yet in 2016 women are paid less than men for doing similar work.

As we start our careers, young women face both real and unseen barriers to success. Still reeling from the economic recession, young women have had to move home, struggled to pay their rent or student loan debt, and held multiple jobs to get by.

And when they do get that first or second job, unseen bias and gender discrimination holds them back among their male coworkers. Even when educational attainment, college major, GPA, and other qualifications are considered, young women ages 16–35 will earn approximately 90 percent of what men earn.

So because we’re paid less in our jobs, does that mean we can pay less for our groceries each month? Can we pay fewer of our credit card bills? Can we pay less of our student loan debt?

Of course not. In fact, in many ways women are charged more — from razors to dry cleaning to mortgages.

In our mid-thirties, women are paid 81 percent of what men earn, and then that grows to 76 percent in our fifties and mid-sixties. The gender wage gap gets worse over time. Which means right as we are thinking of retiring, we are left to find that over the course of our careers, we’ve been paying less into Social Security, putting our retirement security at risk.

So, what can we do? Here are a few options:

1. Ask for more. Sign up for a salary negotiation workshop with AAUW. When we ask for more, we’ll get more.

2. Share Your Equal Pay Story. Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook. Use them to tell your story about how gender discrimination in pay impacts you. When we know each other, we can fight for each other.

3. Vote. This year millennials have the opportunity to decide this election. Don’t you want a candidate who supports equal pay for equal work in the White House? In Congress, don’t we need leaders at the decision-making tables who support the Paycheck Fairness Act? In our states and cities, we should demand bold thinkers who will stand up for women in our communalities.

This Equal Pay Day, I call on all of us to take action. Just because we earn less, doesn’t mean we are less powerful, that our voices are less loud, or that our vote counts any less.

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