So this week (Aug 3-9) is Single Working Women Week, which honors single working mothers and the daily sacrifices they make. A product of a single working mom household myself, we certainly need to honor these amazing women, but I am also claiming this holiday (that’s right) for all single women in the workplace trying to do their thing and make ends meet.
But what challenges are unique to single working women? For many single working women, they are trying to support themselves while dealing with underpaid jobs, a housing crisis, credit card debt and student loan payments. Because they are single women there is often an expectation that they can work the long hours in the office and should be wedded to their careers. They are also at a financial disadvantage compared to their male counterparts who perform equal work. Today, women make 77 cents for each dollar a man makes.
The National Women’s Law Center offers these facts about working women:
■ In 2005, the median annual earnings of women ages 15 and older were $31,858, compared to $41,386 for their male counterparts. Minority women fare significantly worse. In 2005, the median earnings of African American women working full-time, year-round were $29,680 compared to $46,437 for white men; the median for Hispanic women was only $24,214.
■ The earnings gap between women and men also persists across all educational levels. While education lifts all boats, it lifts men’s boats much higher than women’s. While earning a bachelor’s degree yielded a median annual of income of $35,478 for women, it produced a whopping $51,389 for men.
■ If women in the workforce earned the same amounts as men who work the same number of hours, have the same education, age, and union status and live in the same region of the country, their annual family income would rise by about $4,000 and their poverty rates would be cut by half or more. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has calculated that a typical woman who graduated college from 1984 and who was in her mid-40s in 2004 has lost more than $440,000 during that period due to the wage gap.
The good news is that the U.S. House of Reps passed the Paycheck Fairness Act last week in a 247 to 178 vote. Woot! The Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), strengthens current laws against wage discrimination and closes loopholes improving the law’s effectiveness. More specifically, the Act prevents employers from retaliating against employees for sharing their salary information; creates a training program to teach women and girls how to better negotiate their salaries; and tightens the rules that allow employers to dismiss a pay differential for men and women as based on a factor not related to sex.
When the Equal Pay Act was passed over forty years ago, women earned only 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. That number now stands at 77 cents. Yes, we have indeed made progress, but we still have a ways to go in making certain that working women’s salaries are on par with their male counterparts.