Tom: So the pay gap is a major driver – what does the gap look like going into 2016?
Mellody: On average, women in the United States who work full time, year-round are still making just 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. And when you consider both gender and race, the story gets much worse. For Black women, the difference doubles from just over 20 cents to 40 cents, as we make just 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. When you look at wages, it really becomes clear. The median wages for African-American women in the united states are $33,533 per year, compared to median wages of $55,470 annually for white, non-Hispanic men – a difference of $21,937 each year!
Tom: That is truly ridiculous. Is there any good news here?
Mellody: We have seen progress on some fronts. On January 1, 2016, California’s laws regulating equal pay became significantly tougher. The new law will require equal pay for women and men who do “substantially similar work,” regardless of how their jobs are formally described. This means that employers will not be able to chalk the difference up to titles. So in california, the nation’s largest state, they are starting off 2016 with some progress.
Beyond laws, public opinion continues to swing strongly in favor of equal pay. Nearly two-thirds of voters support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a federal proposal that would help combat wage discrimination. In a 2014, 62 percent of likely voters and 78 percent of African-American voters said they support the Act. Support even crosses ideological lines, with 83 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents, and 44 percent of Republican voters saying they support the Paycheck Fairness Act.
There are positive signs. But with the ripple effects of the gender pay gap impacting credit scores, which are critical to getting access to credit, we need broader efforts to ensure equal pay now.