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Report exposes gender pay gap in U.S. workforce, disparity greatest for women of color

Women around the country are still getting paid less than their male counterparts and the gap is even greater for women of color, according to a new report.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found overall women earned an estimated 82 cents for every dollar earned by men last year.

The breakdown by race shows even greater disparities.

“For every dollar earned by White men, Hispanic or Latina women earned an estimated 58 cents (a pay gap of 42 cents on the dollar), and Black or African American women earned an estimated 63 cents (a pay gap of 37 cents on the dollar), while White women earned an estimated 79 cents (a pay gap of 21 cents on the dollar),” the report said.

“There are many different contributors to this overall gender and race-based wage gap that we see,” said Jessica Stender, Policy Director and Deputy Legal Director at Equal Rights Advocates. “One is pay discrimination, meaning women being paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same or substantially similar work… That secrecy that often surrounds pay is another contributor to the gender pay gap because women often aren’t even aware that they are being underpaid.”

Stender said occupational segregation is another factor, which involves the trend of women, particularly women of color, being concentrated in lower paying jobs.

The findings show the gender pay gap is impacting women across all industries.

Last year, Olympian and U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe testified before a House committee about her battle against the gender pay gap.

She pointed out that the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals.

“Despite all of this, we are still paid less than our male counterparts for each trophy, of which there are many, for each win, for each tie, for each time we play,” said Rapinoe in her 2021 testimony. “We can change that right now. We just have to want to.”

Equal pay advocates say we are seeing change more at the state level than at the federal level, with new state laws ramping up protections against pay discrimination and requirements for pay transparency.

Last year, Congress failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act because of Republican opposition that argued the bill was redundant and a burden to employers.

The bill would require employers to demonstrate that any pay gap between a man and a woman was due to job performance and not gender, among other measures.

“We need to continue to enact robust equal pay and anti-discrimination laws at the state level because of this inaction at the federal level,” said Stender. “There is still more work to be done but knowing that we have this continued momentum of people, legislators, the general public understanding the really incredibly harmful toll of the gender pay gap, and also pushing for change to address it, that’s one ray of hope.”

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