Today, April 8, is “Equal Pay Day,” the day when an average woman’s pay catches up to what a man made last year.
Despite years of work and an increasing share of women in the labor force, women continue to earn on average 76.5 cents for every dollar a man earns. Illinois, according to the National Women’s Law Center, has a wage gap of 21.4 cents, slightly better than the national average.
In 2003, along with then State Senator Barack Obama, Karen Yarbrough co-sponsored Illinois’ Equal Pay Act, which “prohibits employers with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women for doing the same or substantially similar work, except if the wage difference is based upon a seniority system, a merit system, a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or factors other than gender.” If wage discrimination is suspected, a person may file a claim with the Illinois Department of Labor for investigation.
“Though today is an opportunity to call attention to the fact that on average, women earn less than men, it’s also a chance to say that our top-down system of demanding more productivity while driving down wages for all isn’t working,” said Karen Yarbrough, Cook County Recorder of Deeds. “We need to redouble our efforts to turn our economy around and create a recovery by paying people more, especially low-wage workers. A rising tide will lift all boats.”
Yarbrough urged support for the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, and for Governor Quinn’s push to raise Illinois’ minimum wage.
Yarbrough noted that we must be careful citing these statistics because the 77 cent statistic applies to the average median income for all women in all jobs. However, a Bloomberg analysis of 265 job categories found that women only outearned men in one of them, “personal care and service workers, which include butlers, valets, house sitters and shoe shiners.” The study found especially large pay discrepancies in higher paying jobs such as financial planners and banking-sector jobs.