Opportunity

Seeing Red on Equal Pay Day

It’s going to take 43 years for women to achieve equal pay overall — but it may be even longer for some.

If you plan to wear red for Equal Pay Day on April 14, choose something durable: You may be getting it out of the wardrobe again and again, every year, for the rest of your lifetime.

There is no sugar-coating the facts. For supporters of women's rights and social justice, data released last month on U.S. pay disparity between the sexes make for a difficult pill to swallow.

Women currently earn on average 78.3 cents for every dollar a man earns. Parity could take generations. The gender wage-gap is real and depressingly wide. In short: For equality, the only news is either bad, or worse.

If this analysis sounds alarmist, just take a look at the figures. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), not until the year 2058 will U.S. women enjoy equal pay. Furthermore, this 43-year waiting game is only the national average forecast — women in Wyoming, for example, will potentially have to wait 101 years longer.

For Employment and Earnings, the IWPR report breaks the numbers down state by state, also by industry sector, educational attainment, age, race and ethnicity.

During the last 10 years, the share of women working in professional or managerial occupations has grown around 20 percent to almost 4 in every 10 jobs. However, men are still more than twice as likely to work in STEM occupations, many of which offer strong earning potential.

Women's employment and earnings rankings by state, from the Institute for Women's Policy ResearchIn terms of race and ethnicity, the numbers are knotty. While Hispanic women might typically be the poorest paid — earning $28,000 each year — they have 90 percent parity with Hispanic men. By contrast, the best paid women — Asian/Pacific Islanders earn an average of $46,000 — actually earn only 78 percent as much as their male counterparts.

Disparity mostly appears greater in higher-earning groups, which raises questions about future trends. If the economy continues to improve post-recession and salaries increase, will this rising tide of wage inflation lift all boats proportionately, or will the inequalities worsen top-to-bottom?

In general, there has been an incremental narrowing of the gender gap since the 1980s, with Millennials now better placed than were Gen Xers. The gap is narrowest for New Yorkers (12.4 percent) and the wait shortest in Florida (2038). However, such skinny positives hardly amount to 'good' news.

Overall, allowing for interpretation, plus permutations of historical, cultural and socio-economic factors, the precise percentages for male-to-female pay disparity vary significantly. However, the common denominator remains the same, sadly: All are unequal, only some more unequal than others.

For those committed to the promise of equal opportunities and outcomes, the real benefit of the research and data breakdown is that it highlights the target areas of top priority for change.

Whether the statistics motivate you to help raise public awareness, support community education and training, advocate policy shifts, campaign for corporate responsibility, demand media coverage or incite activist tendencies, they are a wake-up call to action. Don't just wear red this month; see it!

More from Do More:

- See why 43 years is too long to wait for equality – and help make Every Day #EqualPayDay. Share the Every Day #EqualPayDay message on Twitter.

- Watch how people react when they learn how much they're losing to the wage gap.

- Learn more about the U.S. minimum wage and how it relates to women's equality.