Unequal Pay Is a Form Of Gender Discrimination

Statistics Show That Women Frequently Earn Less

Woman looking at paychecks to determine if she has unequal pay as a woman

Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Men should not be paid more for performing a particular job just because they are men. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it a federal requirement that pay scales for identical work be the same regardless of whether the employee doing the labor is male or female. If a woman works the same hours, performs the same tasks, and is required to meet the same goals as her male counterpart, she is entitled to equal pay.

When women are paid less because of their gender, it is a form of sex discrimination and is illegal.

The following statistics show how women are often underpaid in the United States.

Women Earn Less Than Men Across the Board

  • As of 2018, a woman on average earned 81.6 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women's median annual earnings are $9,766 less than men's. Meanwhile, the pay gap is larger for women of color as Black women make $.0.62, Latinx women make $0.54, American Indian or Alaska Native make $0.57, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander women make $0.61 for every dollar a non-Hispanic White man earns. 
  • The percentage increases somewhat for female workers between the ages of 25 and 34, indicating that women outside of this range fare worse when it comes to ​​pay equality. Women within the 25-34 range earned 89% of men's salaries and wages, although this is still significantly less than equal. ​​
  • Women must work three months longer on average to equal what men earned in a year .
  • Even in job categories, such as child care, that are predominantly occupied by women, they still only earn about 95 percent of men's wages for performing the same jobs.
  • While progress has been made toward pay parity between the sexes over the past 55 years, the Institute for Women's Policy Research estimates that it will not be reached until 2059.

What Pay Inequity Looks Like at Highest and Lowest

  • Most states have implemented laws against gender discrimination, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects women at the federal level even though disparities persist.
  • In Louisiana, for instance, the gender pay gap is 31%, the largest wage gap in the nation.
  • California has the smallest pay gap at 12%, with full-time, year-round working women making $0.88 cents ($49,009 median) for a man's dollar ($55,646).

The Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act does not mandate that jobs held by men and women must be identical for purposes of receiving the same pay, but that they should be "substantially equal"—which is the government's way of saying that each performs much of the same duties regardless of job title. The Equal Pay Act does permit aggrieved workers to take their complaints up directly with the state or federal court system without having to first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

It's also important to note that employers are not permitted to equalize pay in the face of a complaint by reducing the wages or salary of the higher paid employee. 

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Equal Pay Compensation/Discrimination." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  2. United States Census Bureau. "Median Earnings in the Past 12 Months (In 2018 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) of Workers by Sex and Women's Earnings as a Percentage of Men's Earnings by Selected Characteristics." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  3. AAUW. "Fast Facts: The Gender Pay Gap." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  4. Pew Research Center. "The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  5. United States Census Bureau. "Women Still Have to Work Three Months Longer to Equal What Men Earned in a Year." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  6. Institute for Women's Policy Research. "Women’s Median Earnings as a Percent of Men’s Median Earnings, 1960-2018 (Full-Time, Year-Round Workers) with Projection for Pay Equity in 2059." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  7. Center for American Progress. "Fast Facts: Economic Security for Women and Families in Louisiana." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  8. AAUW. "The Fight for Pay Equity: A Federal Road Map." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  9. U.S. Equal Employment Commission. "Equal Pay/Compensation Discrimination." Accessed June 18, 2020.