Happy birthday Equal Pay Act! 50 years ago yesterday, on June 10th, 1963, President John F. Kennedy birthed the Equal Pay Act by pen, signing the amendment of the Fair Labor Standard Act into law and making it illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on sex. As President Obama noted at an event to celebrate the anniversary, at the time of its signing, women earned 59 cents to every dollar a man earned. Today we’ve inched upwards to about 77 cents for each dollar a man earns. Progress to be sure, but this still shows us that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that it is enforced as well as working beyond outlawing overt sex discrimination.
For example, the recent jobs report found that over half of women’s job gains are in the low wage sector, compared to only a quarter of men’s job gains. Women’s earnings not only effect the well-being of women workers themselves, but also their families, as women’s consumption choices usually take into greater consideration the well-being of the entire family, particularly children, rather than just their own needs. Non-policy wonk translation: Dudes are more likely to be paid more, and dudes are selfish. Not only is it really unfair at a basic level that women still experience sex discrimination at work by being paid less and being denied promotion opportunities, but the negative consequences are even greater than simply earning less.