News, Special Projects

The wage gap still impacts women

By: Ahrahm Joo, Renzo Pocasangre and Luke Wines

Since the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the gender wage gap has been steadily closing but remains a current issue today in the United States.

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, with the express purpose of correcting the gender based wage disparity. At the time, women who worked full-time earned 60 cents for every dollar a man made.

Since its codification, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 has been systematically dismantled by loopholes and Supreme Court rulings. The vague language of the act was susceptible to wide judicial interpretation, further weakening its ability to close the wage gap.

Long Beach State women’s, gender & sexuality studies professor Lori Baralt said, “The wage gap has improved since the 1960s but it has not fully closed. It varies widely when race is taken into consideration as well.”

According to the Census Bureau, in 2020 the median income for a woman in Los Angeles was $30,459, $10,000 less than that of the median man.

Even in women dominated fields, such as nursing, men are paid $14,000 more than their female colleagues on average. This persistent structural advantage is known to activists as the glass escalator. There is no equivalent in male dominated fields such as computer science or engineering, inherently propagating further disadvantages in the professional field.

The gap is even bigger for women in minority communities.

Research by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated, “In recent years, the pay gap was considerably greater for women in most historically underserved racial and ethnic groups than for white women.”

The report showed that in 2021 Hispanic women earned on average 58 cents to every dollar white men earned.

The causes of the remaining gap are debated. However, experts agree that multiple variables are at play. Research by staffing firm Randstad US has shown that 60% of working women claimed to have never negotiated their salary, only 40% of men in the study reported the same. Meanwhile, in industries requiring minimal training, such as cashiers, women are paid 99 cents for every dollar men earn, indicating that access to advanced positions may be gatekept by a lack of training or education in specific fields.

Court cases, like that of Rizo v. Yovino showed the importance of the judicial branch in upholding legally binding structure as well as setting a precedent for future cases. The court case of Rizo v. Yovino directly clashed with the loopholes that were created by the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

The final judicial decision for Rizo v. Yovino was years in the making, with the case first reaching court in 2017.

The Ninth Circuit court declared that Yovino had no right to justify a wage gap, stating that it could not fall under “factor[s] other than sex.”

This ruling challenged the exploitation of these loopholes that manipulated female salaries and wages by confronting the limitations on which the clause may be used.

Although the wage gap has been closing for over the last two decades, men still make $10,000 more than women today.

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