The Equal Pay Act Turns 50 – Does It Matter?

Posted June 10, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Women's Issues

Here at Career Girl Network, we try actively to post articles that are upbeat and optimistic about the state of women’s business issues in America. But today is both a reminder and a cautionary tale. Today, June 10, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the day President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act.

In case you’re not familiar with the Equal Pay Act, here’s the skinny on what it was and how it was signed in 1963. From the ACLU:

This landmark piece of federal anti-discrimination law was one of the very first to address gender-based pay disparities. On the day he signed it, President Kennedy called the act a “first step” which “affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes.” But he noted that “much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity. . . .”

As Kathi Toll aptly pointed out in her article “59¢ on the Dollar” recently, the good news and the bad news about the 1963 Equal Pay Act is pretty clear:

  • In 1963, women made 59¢ for every dollar their male counterparts made. Just a little over half.
  • John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to start the process of equality building for women’s paychecks.
  • 50….yes, that’s right….50…years later, women make 77¢ for every dollar their male counterparts make.
  • Again, as Kathi recently pointed out – that’s an improvement of only 18¢, or more drearily put, approximately less than 4¢ a decade.

It’s a sad state of affairs when in those 50 years, we can put a man on the moon, invent everything from the DVD player to the flat screen TV, elected the first African American President, and saw three female Secretaries of State, and four female Supreme Court Justices, but a woman still makes 23¢ less on every dollar than a man doing the same work. If talking tiny cents doesn’t resonate, consider this. A man makes $100,000 a year as a Director of Projects at a Fortune 500, for instance. The same company, the same job, same education, same qualifications, a woman in that job would make $77,000. It doesn’t sound like a lot when you say 77¢ on the dollar, but it matters when you compare $77,000 to $100,000.

So what can you do? Here’s what ACLU is working on for the 50th anniversary.

This year, the ACLU will work to finally close the wage gap, by advocating for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act. The ACLU will also be asking the administration to take immediate action, by issuing an executive order that would protect employees of federal contractors from retaliation for discussing or asking about their wages. Following years of advocacy by the ACLU, the Department of Labor recently announced that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is rescinding two harmful guidance documents on pay discrimination originally issued in 2006. This action will immediately enable OFCCP to better conduct investigations of contractor pay practices consistent with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So get involved! Follow the legislation, write your congressional representatives. It’s worth taking the time! Fifty years later, it’s time to get it DONE!


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."