More Than a Woman

Yesterday, April 28, was Equal Pay Day, the day in the year when American women’s pay catches up to American men’s from the previous year.  It takes almost five months into the year before the wages paid to women equal those for men for the 12 months of the year before.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Vermont women earn just over 81% of full time working men.

In 2007, the last full year for which information is available, American men earned an average of $14.75 per hour.  American women?  $12.05 per hour.  That’s a big difference.  The median national weekly earnings for men was $766.  For women it was $614.  In Vermont those weekly earnings were $767 and $625.  Not quite as big a disparity but a disparity nonetheless.  (You can get this and lots more information from the Highlight of Women’s Earnings in 2007 report.

Not only did the notice of Equal Pay Day come my way today from a colleague, but I also happened to notice a poster, which I had seen before but never really looked at closely, that broke down average earnings, separately for men and women, by degree attained.  Vermont’s Commission on Women reports, in its January 2009 Status of Women and Girls in Vermont report, that women with a Bachelor’s Degree earned an average of $31,770 while men earned an average of $46,933.  That is a difference of over $15,000.

That isn’t fair.  Maybe there is, as some claim, more an explanation than one can see on the surface, but that still isn’t fair, and I don’t buy that it can account for the gap.  Vermont’s Commision on Women has also put together a brochure on equity in the workplace.  This isn’t something that I see every day.  It isn’t something that affects me regularly, at least openly.  But it bothers me.

I have seen many women who do a better job than men.  And I know that not all women get paid less than men.  But it is hard to keep from noticing and wondering and questioning what the heck is up with this gender earnings gap.  April 28 is awfully late in the year to be catching up.  Equal pay by New Year’s Eve.  That would be a little more my speed.