Arizona Equal Pay Day marks how far into the year women in the state have had to work overall in order to make what men made in the state the year before. KAWC’s Maya Springhawk Robnett spoke with Sarah Fleisch Fink for the National Partnership for Women and Families about the issue in Arizona and across the nation…
When was the issue of Equal Pay first raised?
Equal Pay—or sort of better described: unequal pay—has been a problem for decades and decades. And the Equal Pay Act began to address that problem when it was put into law and since then, though, we have continued to fight against the pay gap and fight against unequal pay for women in this country.
What does that look like in the state of Arizona, specifically?
When you look at what men who work full-time year round and what women who work full-time year round earn in Arizona, women in Arizona earn just eighty-three cents for every dollar paid to men, which amounts to an annual wage gap of over seven thousand dollars. When you look at this combined—when you look at Arizona women combined, that’s a nearly $13 billion per year that are lost to the wage gap.
And this is even worse for women of color, correct?
Absolutely! Women of color face an even sharper wage gap in most places, likely due to the combined sex discrimination and race- or ethnicity-based discrimination that they face in the workplace. So in Arizona, among women who hold full-time, year-round jobs, black women are paid just sixty-eight cents and Latinas just fifty-five cents for every dollar that is paid to white, non-Hispanic men. So you can see that both of those wage gaps are even more significant for women of color than they are for women overall in the state.
Do you believe that legislation is the only solution to this problem?
I think that legislation is one part of the solution to the problem. I think that public policy certainly has a role to play in closing and eliminating the wage gap. Public policy solutions include things like saying that employers can’t retaliate against workers for talking about their wages with each other. And that allows workers to tell their colleagues how much they make and to ask questions about that so that they can have information to determine if they’re being paid fairly or not. But there’s other pieces to this. So, for example, we urge employers themselves to examine their own pay practices, to really take a look at what policies they have in place around setting compensation, to really look at how much they’re paying different workers in the same job categories across gender and across other protected characteristics to determine if they perhaps have a wage gap in their own workforce that they might not even know about or be aware of.
How is the pay gap calculated?
So Equal Pay Day marks the day how far into 2017 women overall have had to work to catch up with what men were paid in 2016. The number is based on U.S. Census Bureau pay data that’s collected from women across the country. And that’s what this day is about: looking at the overall picture of what’s happening in the workforce.
And you’re also highlighting women’s effect on the economy. How does this affect the economy if women make less than men?
So, as I mentioned, for example in Arizona women who are employed full-time lose a combined total of nearly $13 billion every year. That’s a significant amount of money. That’s a significant amount of money that’s not going into the local economy. That’s not being spent and that has an impact of course on the state economy, on local economies. It also has an impact because with that amount of money, women would better be able to support their own families and to contribute to their own families’ economic security.