50 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act which prohibited arbitrary discrimination against women through wages. Back in 1963, women earned only 60₵ on the dollar compared to men. Now, 50 years later women still earn less than men, though the gap has been reduced, women now earn about 81% of men.
One of the myths about why women earn less than men is because of the stereotype that women will put family above work, so employers tend to undervalue a female employee. Cornell University conducted a research survey to determine if there is a “motherhood penalty.” The audit study revealed that actual employers discriminate against mothers, but not against fathers. In fact, the disadvantages mothers have in the workplace are not limited to pay. Mothers are considered to be less competent, less dependable and less authoritative. However, this “motherhood penalty” myth, does not explain why young, single women who are not mothers, and just starting their careers earn less than men.
As a mother of three young daughters, I’m interested in seeing this gap close. Thankfully, the United States Department of Labor is working to help close this gap, by letting women know their worth in the workplace, rescinding outdated guidance, and teaming up with other members of the National Equal Pay Task Force. I hope employers are doing the same. Equal pay for equal work is important.