By Aisha Huertas Michel, Director, Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project
As a working woman, today I celebrate a very important milestone – five years ago President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Act restores the right of American workers to seek justice if they find themselves subject to wage discrimination, a right that had been taken away by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in 2007. The signing was a great step forward, yet our work is far from over.
On average, women in the United States today still earn just 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. But, there is cause for celebration. Thanks to women like Lilly Ledbetter, this disparity has gained national attention and serious reform efforts have been launched. We are determined to bring this reform to Virginia!
In 2010, the typical woman in the Commonwealth working full time, year round was paid only 79 cents to every dollar paid to a man working full time. The wage gap is even more substantial when viewing the disparity between African American and Hispanic women and white, non-Hispanic men. While white, non-Hispanic women were paid 75 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, African-American women were paid only 59 cents and Hispanic women only 56 cents. The wage gap persists at all levels of education and across occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ national figures, women in management professions made 71.6 cents for every dollar males made in the same profession and women in business and financial occupations made 74.7 cents for every dollar a male counterpart made. This pay disparity has no place in 21st century Virginia.
While the perception may be that Virginia’s women are “better off” than most women in the nation when it comes to receiving equal pay, “better off” is far from equal. Women deserve to earn the same amount of money a man makes for equal work. We want no more and no less.
The injustice of lesser pay is particularly troubling in an economic climate where nationally approximately 40 percent of women act as the primary breadwinners in their households and more than 60 percent are breadwinners or co-breadwinners. We need concrete and immediate action to improve the economic security of working families, which is critical to the nation’s economic recovery.
As we mark this very important anniversary, we issue a call to action and words of encouragement to all women to continue fighting for that which they have rightfully earned. We ask our legislators to address this disparity – to ensure equal pay for equal work for all Virginians.
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