She Works Hard(er): Unequal Wages for California Women Persist

Today is Equal Pay Day, the point at which the average pay for a woman in the U.S. catches up to the average of what a man made last year. A new report analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data is a reminder that the wage gap between sexes persists -- even in states such as California with a higher minimum wage. According to the report, California women earn 85 cents per hour for every dollar paid to men, a gap that adds up to almost $7,500 a year for a full-time worker.

Sarah Crawford, director of workplace fairness, National Partnership for Women and Families, said not much has changed since last year's Equal Pay Day.

"The interesting point," she said, "is that there is no state where women are earning more than men. The wage gap persists in every corner of our country."

The wage gap is more pronounced for women of color, with Latina women making 55 cents for every dollar earned by a white man and African-American women making 64 cents, she said.

Crawford noted that the federal Equal Pay Act turns 50 this summer. Her group wants an update, with changes that include requiring employers to prove their reasons for pay differences and not allowing them to retaliate against workers for discussing their pay.

"About half of the workforce is subject to policies that could lead to discipline or even firing for voluntary discussions of pay with coworkers," Crawford said. "If you can't talk about your pay, how can you find out about pay discrimination?"

Some bipartisan support exists in Congress for a new Paycheck Fairness Act, she added, although it was blocked by procedural votes in 2010 and again last year.

The report is available at www.nationalpartnership.org.

Story by Lori Abbott, PNS

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