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What is the "Wage Gap" and Why Do We Need Equal Pay?

The herstory of pay disparity

March 18, 2019

On International Women’s Day 2019, SameSide launched the #aMillionforaMillion campaign to take one million actions for equal pay and close the gender wage gap in the United States. The wage gap is a huge issue that holds women back socially, politically, and economically and is even worse for women of color. Through a series of blog posts, we are breaking down the gender wage gap: what it is, it’s history, and what you can do about it.

Equal Pay Legislation and History

In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was introduced and signed into law in an effort to combat wage discrimination between men and women. More women than ever were entering the workforce in the 60s and soon realized that they were being paid far less than men for the same work. The Equal Pay Act was meant to correct this discrimination and provide women equal pay for equal work. The next year, the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” These acts were significant steps forward but did not come close to solving the issue of unequal pay.


Over the years, there have been pieces of “bandaid” legislation that have put patches on the problem but not fully solved it. In 1972, the Educational Amendment was passed, which expanded the Equal Pay Act to white-collar executive, professional and administrative jobs. This Amendment recognized that the wage gap does not solely affect women in lower-income jobs. In 1978 the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed to protect pregnant workers because, this just in, you could literally be FIRED for being pregnant. In 1991, the government passed the Family and Medical Leave Act so parents of either gender could take time off after their child was born.


Finally, in 2009, President Obama passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This act is often talked about as a landmark win for women in the workplace, and technically it was. Not to be a downer, but this should have been a no-brainer! This act essentially* gets rid of the statute of limitations for filing an equal pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination. So now women are allowed to sue if they are getting unequal pay. Again, this is a step in the right direction, but still a bandaid on a larger social, political, and economic issue.


For #aMillionforaMillion, we are supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act. This act will

  • Protect employers from punishment if they ask their coworkers how much they are making.

  • Close a loophole that allows an employer to claim that they are paying a woman less because of a factor other than sex. The employer would have to prove this statement.

  • Limit the use of wage history in the hiring process.

  • Incentivize employers to stop pay discrimination.

  • Help women start a class action lawsuit for equal pay.

  • Allow the EEOC to collect pay data and other employment-related data.


We need to help pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to close the loopholes that allow employers to get away with wage discrimination. Learn more about what it is here! 


*The bill actually resets the statute of limitations for filing with each new paycheck. So if you work at a company for 40 years and you’ve been getting unequal paychecks the whole time, you can sue. If you quit a company 10 years ago and were being paid unequally then, you cannot.


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