“We’ve been anywhere from 72 cents to the dollar to now 81 cents to the dollar in the last few years.”
April 4th is equal pay day . It’s the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Neha Mahajan Director of Colorado 9 to 5 says that women in Colorado are still earning less than men.
“Here in Colorado, this year in 2017 we are looking at 81 cents to the dollar that women are earning compared to men. And this has really fluctuated over the years. We’ve been anywhere from 72 cents to the dollar to now 81 cents to the dollar in the last few years.”
Mahajan says that those statistics must be broken down further as certain women are earning even less. “Women of color especially, women with disabilities, mothers, transgender women all face even higher rates of disparity and higher pay gaps. So for example in Colorado when you compare white women’s earnings to white men’s earnings, and white men are of course the highest earning category, we find that white women are earning 78 cents to a white man’s dollar. When you look at Asian women, you then see that Asian women are earning 70 cents to a white man’s dollar. Black women are earning 64 cents to a white man’s dollar, Native women are earning 58 cents to a white man’s dollar and Latina women are only earning 54 cents to every dollar that a white man makes.”
There are a variety of reasons why women earn less than men. Often women are relegated to low paying jobs and low paying industries like the service sector, but there are still cases where women are paid less than men doing the exact same job. “Professions that women are channeled into are devalued and not paid as much. So even though they may require similar levels of education, training and skill as a comparable profession that tends to be dominated by men, the industry that women are in, the fields, the careers, the types of jobs that women are valued lower and they’re paid less.”
Women are often the primary carers in their families – for children and for those who are elderly or sick. Colorado does not have paid sick leave or paid family leave which has a huge impact on women, particularly for women of color who tend to be in jobs that do not have access to paid leave. Only 13% of people nationally have access to paid leave through their work. Women are often forced to take unpaid leave or are forced to leave the workforce to take care of children or other family members.
Colorado 9 to 5 is part of a coalition of groups that is using Equal Pay day to raise awareness about a bill that was recently introduced at the state capitol. The Family And Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI) HB 17-1307, which 9 to 5 says will go a long way to support working women, will be heard by House Business Committee next Tuesday. The FAMLI Act would guarantee all Colorado workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for themselves or their families. The program would be entirely funded through employee contributions. A similar measure died in the House in 2015.