Emily Crockett is 29 years old. Over her working life, she can expect to lose $443,000 to unequal pay.
You’ve probably heard the statistics: Women get paid 77 cents for every $1 men get paid. The picture is even worse for women of color. And the numbers haven’t budged in more than a decade.
The wage gap is there for women no matter what level of education they have or what type of experience they have. It persists regardless of what type of job a woman holds or what point in her career she is at, and it only gets worse as she advances in her career.
Where does this pay gap even come from? Unequal pay has its roots in stereotypes. "The way that women are compensated…starts with this old idea that women are just working for extra pocket money and are not primary breadwinners," says Emily, who lives in Washington, D.C. "This is in no way true anymore, and yet here we are with a pay gap that hasn't improved in decades."
Women are concentrated in the lowest-paying sectors of the American workforce—making up two-thirds of minimum wage workers. It’s not that women seek out poorly paying work—it’s that so-called “women’s work” pays less precisely because women do these jobs. But it doesn’t stop there: Women who pursue careers in traditionally male fields get paid less, too.
As a young woman worker, Emily also has the challenge of making her way in the “gig economy."
I 'gig' both as a singer/voice teacher and a writer/editor. It's tough to cobble together a sustainable living in the gig economy, because sometimes you spend as much time finding work as doing work. On top of that lost potential income, I can also look forward to earning less over my lifetime because I'm a woman. So THAT'S fun.
Temporary, contract and gig jobs have risen 29% since 2009, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. A study by Intuit estimates more than 40% of the U.S. workforce will be contractors, temps and self-employed by 2020.
But in some ways, not much has changed. Casting temporary work as "women's work" was all the rage in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when employers wanted to circumvent basic but inconvenient workplace standards such as workers’ compensation, pensions, health benefits and more.
No matter what the source of the gap is, nothing justifies the fact that women get paid less for their work. Nothing justifies the almost half a million dollars Emily may lose throughout her lifetime. It’s an affront to America’s basic values of fairness and the reward of hard work.
Unequal pay isn’t something that just happens—it’s a choice. And we can choose to commit to ending it once and for all. Republicans in Congress have killed recent attempts—including the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act—but we’ll keep pushing. Emily’s generation of women should be the generation that experiences equal pay. It’s time to make our voices heard. Urge your representatives to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.