Women’s Equality Day August 26, 2014
Women’s Equality Day Women’s Equality Day commemorates American women achieving full voting rights under the U.S. Constitution by the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. This historic event was the culmination of a massive civil rights movement that spanned decades.
Women’s Equality Day Women celebrating the right to vote Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
Women’s Equality Day “On Women's Equality Day, we celebrate the progress that has been made, and renew our commitment to securing equal rights, freedoms, and opportunities for women everywhere.” —President Barack Obama Photo courtesy of the White House
Women’s Equality Day Fifty-one years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act (EPA) into law to combat gender-based wage discrimination. At that time, the U.S. workforce included nearly 25 million women—a third of all U.S. workers. Yet women earned an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues.
Women’s Equality Day “Our economy today depends upon women in the labor force,” Kennedy said when he signed the law in 1963.
Women’s Equality Day By amending the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 with the EPA, Kennedy made it illegal to discriminate against women in the payment of wages. In the first two decades after the EPA's passage, the gender wage gap narrowed significantly, but progress has since stagnated.
Women’s Equality Day Pay equity was back in the national spotlight again in 2007, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court
Women’s Equality Day Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work.
Women’s Equality Day Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager. When she was near retirement, she got an anonymous letter listing the salaries of the men who held the same job. The pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.
Women’s Equality Day Ledbetter had signed a contract with her employer that she would not discuss pay rates with other workers. She had no way of knowing that she was being underpaid. Ledbetter submitted a questionnaire to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in March 1998 inquiring about salaries. In July, she submitted a formal EEOC charge.
Women’s Equality Day After she filed with the EEOC, she was subsequently assigned to lift heavy tires. She was in her 60s at the time, but she continued to perform the tasks her employer required of her. After her November 1998 retirement, she filed suit, asserting, among other things, a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Women’s Equality Day The district court allowed her Title VII pay discrimination claim to proceed to trial. Ledbetter alleged that several supervisors had in the past given her poor evaluations because of her sex; that as a result, her pay had not increased as much as it would have if she had been evaluated fairly; that those past pay decisions affected the amount of her pay throughout her employment; and that by the end of her employment, she was earning significantly less than her male colleagues.
Women’s Equality Day Goodyear maintained that the evaluations had been nondiscriminatory; however, the jury found for Ledbetter, awarding back pay and approximately 3.3 million dollars in compensatory damages.
Women’s Equality Day Goodyear appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the pay discrimination claim was time barred with regard to all pay decisions made before September 26, 1997—180 days before Ledbetter filed her EEOC questionnaire—and that no discriminatory act relating to her pay occurred after that date.
Women’s Equality Day In a contentious 5-4 split decision, the justices concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove Goodyear had acted with discriminatory intent and that employers cannot be held accountable for discrimination 180 days after the first discriminatory paycheck was issued. Ledbetter received no restitution. In addition, Goodyear billed her $3,165 for court-related costs.
Women’s Equality Day Ledbetter continued her fight in the hopes that other women would not face the same inequities she did. Her efforts—with the support of the American Association of University Women and other women’s groups—culminated in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in January 2009.
Women’s Equality Day The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act allows an employee to recover back pay for up to two years preceding the filing of a discrimination claim. The Fair Pay Act significantly extends the window of time during which an employee may file a pay discrimination claim. The changes of the Fair Pay Act also apply to claims filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Women’s Equality Day Lilly Ledbetter with President Obama as he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Women’s Equality Day According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women in America today earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Women of color earn even less: For Black women, the figure is 69 cents, and for Latino women, it is 58 cents. Qualified women are often excluded from job opportunities in the trades, construction, transportation, and other male-dominated industries and are instead more likely than men to work in part-time, low-wage jobs with no benefits.
Women’s Equality Day The 23-cent wage gap has remained intact over the years, a troubling fact for a modern economy in which more women are entering the workforce and families increasingly depend on women's wages to survive. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women are projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018.
Women’s Equality Day Recent research has shown that, even when factors like professional specialization, hours worked, and educational and experience levels are held constant, women still earn less than men. In 2012, the median income of American women working full time year-round was $37,791; for men, it was nearly $50,000. According to the EEOC, at the present rate, it will be another 50 years before the gender pay gap is eliminated.
Women’s Equality Day Women make up 55 percent of workers in minimum-wage jobs, and a full-time minimum-wage job pays about $15,000 per year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2014 guidelines reported that for a family of four, the poverty level is $23,850.
Women’s Equality Day Seventy-two percent of workers in predominantly tipped occupations, such as food service—where workers earn 40 percent less on average than other hourly workers—are women.
Women’s Equality Day The average woman has to work approximately 15 months—more than 90 additional days—to match what her male counterpart earned in 12 months.
Women’s Equality Day Also, 5-in-10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is either the sole or primary breadwinner for her family, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census and polling data released last year.
Women’s Equality Day Women now make up roughly half of America’s workforce and graduate at a higher rate than men from college and graduate schools—but even professional women make less than men in the same occupation with equivalent degrees. The wage gap worsens as they get older. Until they turn 35, women earn roughly 90 percent of what men earn; after that, women typically earn about 75 to 80 percent of what men earn.
Women’s Equality Day Since the 196os, much has changed for women in the labor force, yet there is still work to be done. President Obama said, “As we reflect on decades of progress toward gender equality, we must also resolve to make progress in our time. Today, we honor the pioneers of women’s equality by doing our part to realize the great American dream—the dream of a nation where all things are possible for all people.”
Women’s Equality Day “We have by no means done enough to strengthen family life and at the same time encourage women to make their full contribution as citizens. If our nation is to be successful in the critical period ahead, we must rely upon the skills and devotion of all our people…It is appropriate at this time…to review recent accomplishments and to acknowledge frankly the further steps that must be taken. This is a task for the entire nation.” —John F. Kennedy, 1961 Photo courtesy of the White House
Resources • http://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/facts_over_time.htm • http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/23/presidential-proclamation-womens-equality-day-2013 • http://womenshistorymonth.gov/ • http://www.aauw.org/article/50-years-after-the-equal-pay-act-parity-eludes-us/ • http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/equal_pay_day_2014.cfmhttp://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/01/25/now-comes-lilly-ledbetter • http://aspe.hhs.gov/POVERTY/14poverty.cfm
Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Patrick Air Force Base, FloridaAugust 2014 Dawn W. Smith Production Development SpecialistDEOMI Research DirectorateAll photographs are public domain and are from various sources, as cited. The findings in this report are not to be construed as an official DEOMI, U.S. military services, or Department of Defense position, unless designated by other authorized documents.