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Today is Equal Pay Day - but not for all women

Updated: May 12

While our focus right now is on protecting our loved ones, employees, and organizations, it is important to acknowledge that today, March 31st, is Equal Pay Day. The gender pay disparity remains, and is even exacerbated, as the U.S. responds to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Women’s Leadership Collaborative is committed to continue our work to address this issue during this unprecedented time.

Today marks the amount of additional days into the new year that it takes U.S. women, on average, to earn the same amount their male counterparts earned in 2019. March 31st symbolizes that women must work an additional quarter to catch up to men’s annual compensation. This gap widens further when broken down by race and ethnicity. Equal Pay Day is August 13 for Black women, October 1 for Native American women and October 29 for Latina women this year. The pay gap for Asian American women is slightly better than the average with an Equal Pay Day falling on February 11.

The negative effects of women’s economic inequity are further magnified by the challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 outbreak. Women make up half the workforce but are disproportionately represented in low-paying, hourly jobs (54%). Many of these jobs have been the first to go as businesses temporarily shut down or cut hours to adhere to social distancing regulations. For employees able to work from home, women will undoubtedly take on the lion’s share of eldercare and childcare responsibilities, which now include homeschooling. The impact of these additional workloads could affect promotion opportunities in the future and possibly decisions made around who stays and who goes in subsequent waves of layoffs.

Women also make up the vast majority of healthcare workers, but the pay gap is still present among physicians, nurses and other healthcare professions.

Women also make up the vast majority of healthcare workers, but the pay gap is still present among physicians, nurses and other healthcare professions. A 2019 Physician Compensation Report by Doximity found that, while it’s better to be a female physician in Milwaukee than in any of the 50 metro areas, she still earns on average $62,523 less than a male physician in the highest paid metro area for male doctors. Indeed, women are being paid less to serve alongside men on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic, putting their own health at risk.

Healthcare industry or not, it’s important that businesses maintain awareness of these realities. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there are just five occupations in which women’s median weekly earnings are higher than men’s, and 120 occupations in which they are lower. Companies can help be a part of our collective progress on closing the pay gap by staying abreast of the unique challenges women will face as our country responds to the pandemic. This means thinking about how employees’ experiences and responsibilities will differ as women, as parents, as individuals with varying statuses of individual health and beyond. Flexibility and awareness are key to good leadership in this time of uncertainty and constant change.

Women can also take action to help advocate for themselves by learning how to identify and articulate their personal value as an employee. The Women’s Leadership Collaborative planned to host a series of free salary negation trainings on Thursday, April 2, 2020, but will postpone to the fall in light of COVID-19. The trainings utilize a proven curriculum developed by the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW), which teaches participants how to conduct objective market research to benchmark a target salary and benefits, and strategies for making the ask. A new date for the trainings will be announced soon.

In the meantime, stay safe, healthy and find comfort knowing that we’re all in this together.

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