Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, the point at which the average pay for a woman in the U.S. catches up to the average of what a man made last year.
A new report analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data is a reminder that the wage gap between the sexes persists - even in states such as Oregon with a higher minimum wage.
According to the report, Oregon women earn 78 cents per hour for every dollar paid to men, a gap that adds up to almost $10,000 a year for a full-time worker.
Sarah Crawford, director of workplace fairness, National Partnership for Women and Families, said not much has changed since last year's Equal Pay Day.
"The interesting point," she said, "is that there is no state where women are earning more than men. The wage gap persists in every corner of our country."
Crawford noted that the federal Equal Pay Act turns 50 this summer. Her group wants an update, with changes that include requiring employers to prove their reasons for pay differences and not allowing them to retaliate against workers for discussing their pay.
"About half of the workforce is subject to policies that could lead to discipline or even firing for voluntary discussions of pay with coworkers," Crawford said. "If you can't talk about your pay, how can you find out about pay discrimination?"
Some bipartisan support exists in Congress for a new Paycheck Fairness Act, she added, although it was blocked by procedural votes in 2010 and again last year.
For the almost 152,000 Oregon households headed by women, Crawford said the wage gap is of particular concern.
"Over 15 million households in the United States are headed by women, and 31 percent of those households live in poverty," she said. "Eliminating the wage gap would provide critical income to those women and their families."
The wage gap is more pronounced for women of color, with Latina women making 55 cents for every dollar earned by a white man and African-American women making 64 cents, she said.
The report is available at www.nationalpartnership.org.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this report
Oregon Labor Commissioner Avakian Issues National Equal Pay Day Message
Investment in career and technical education can help address pay equity, says Avakian
PORTLAND - Oregon Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian today issued the following statement about pay equity in Oregon:
“On Equal Pay Day, we mark the day of year that represents how far into 2013 women must work to earn the same as what men earn for comparable work. Despite our state’s leadership – and first-in-the-nation Equal Pay Law, there’s more to be done to ensure equal pay for equal work.
Pay disparity affects short-term earnings, long-term savings, retirement security and educational opportunity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women in Oregon in 2010 earned 77.3 cents for every dollar that male workers earned in the state. And disparity among women of color is even more acute — an Oregon Employment Department report found that in 2007, white women Oregon were earning an average income of $34,152 for full-time, year-round work compared to $32,739 for Asian women and $20,333 for Hispanic and Latina women.
As the state’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, I’ve directed the Oregon Council on Civil Rights to develop recommendations and actionable, short- and long-term policy options to address the challenge. National Pay Equity day is a day to recognize that an unacceptable gap still exists, but also that Oregon stands ready to serve as a national model again to keep our state – and all of our citizens – moving ahead.
Enforcement tools alone will not end the cycle of disparity. We must work to build a stronger economy and highly skilled workforce so that all Oregonians enjoy access to economic opportunity and hope for a better life.
A good place to start is investing in career and technical education for students and young women in our middle schools and high schools. With smart, cost-effective programs, we can bring back the shop classes and vocational trainings that provide young women access to hands-on learning and skills development.
To rebuild our middle class and move our state forward, we need to break down barriers and provide economic opportunity for all Oregon citizens.”