Equal Pay Day: The Numbers Behind the Fight for Gender Equality at Work

Every year since 1996, Equal Pay Day has marked the point in the year a woman must work to earn as much money as a man made the previous year. That in 2018 it’s still well into the second quarter — April 10th, to be exact — shows us how much progress still needs to be made towards gender equality in the workplace. 

In fact, the gap between women’s and men’s wages hasn’t changed much over the last decade, according to data from the nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research. It actually worsened between 2016 and 2017 for weekly salaried workers.

Today, on average, women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. These statistics are even more bleak when one accounts for race. Black women earn just 62 cents for every dollar a white man earns, while Latinas are paid just 54 cents on the dollar.

And despite arguments you might hear from those who deny the realities of a gender pay gap, it exists when you control for any number of factors, including experience, hours worked and education. It starts as young as age 16, and persists for the entirety of the average woman’s career. 

It can be difficult to articulate why pay inequity matters, beyond the inherent unfairness of doing the same work for less money. Facebook COO and equality advocate Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit Lean In crunched the numbers and took a look at what working women’s lives would look like if we closed the gender pay gap. 

The average woman would earn a whopping $400,000 more over the course of her career. (That number balloons to over $1 million for the average Latina.) A staggering 3.1 million working women and their families would be lifted out of poverty if the gap ceased. A black woman, on average, could afford another 14 months of mortgage payments. 

So, how do we go about closing this pernicious gap? Well, part of that is down to the government. The Equal Rights Amendment — co-written by suffragist and Bumble First Movers Club member Alice Paul — still hasn’t been ratified. And the Paycheck Fairness Act that’d give the 1963 Equal Pay Act some teeth hasn’t been passed. 

Hundreds of private sector companies large and small committed to doing their part to ensure women are paid equally in 2016, signing a White House Equal Pay Pledge under President Obama.

There’s still plenty to be done, though, to make working women’s lives — and not just their paychecks — equitable. The “motherhood penalty,” as it’s been called, punishes women for daring to have children as well as careers; moms earn less than women without kids, and that gap continues to widen.

Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd wrote an op-ed for Refinery29 to mark this year’s Equal Pay Day, including her thoughts on how to help all women, including mothers, thrive in modern workplaces. Check it out, and read more about Equal Pay Day at LeanIn.org