15 April, 2015
Activists gathered in New York City this week to call attention to a problem that has existed for a long time: the pay difference between American men and women.
The United States Congress took steps to fix the problem back in April 1963, when it passed the Equal Pay Act. The law requires US businesses to pay women and men the same wage for equal work. But on average, women today still earn 22% less than men.
For women of color, the difference is even greater. African-American women earn 36% less; Latinas earn 44% less.
The difference in pay costs women nearly $450 billion a year in lost wages.
Improving economic fairness
Beverly Neufeld set up a group called PowHer NY to improve economic fairness. She says the average woman has to work 15 months every year to make what an average white man makes in 12 months. That difference is, in her words, "a lot of bread" – another word for money.
Activists point out economic fairness is not an issue that concerns only women. Martha Kamber is head of the Young Women's Christian Association in Brooklyn, New York. She says if women cannot earn enough money to support their families, the whole community suffers.
And in the United States, where single mothers lead one fourth of all homes, the pay difference has an especially big effect on children.
Last January, President Barack Obama asked Congress to pass a law that strengthened economic fairness between women and men. But the federal government has not been successful in that aim. So some state governments are taking action.
The New York State Assembly is expected to pass the Equal Pay Bill this year. It will protect employees who discuss their earnings with others. Representative Michelle Titus proposed the bill. She says the protection is important because employers usually bar workers from comparing how much money they make.
Robert Cornegy, a New York City council member, is also urging change. He tells his daughters every day that if they work and study hard they can achieve anything and be recognized fairly. He says he does not want to tell them a lie.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
New York reporter Daniela Schrier prepared this story. Kelly Jean Kelly wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
wage – n. an amount of money a worker is paid based on the time he or she has worked
single mother – n. a parent who takes care of a child alone
achieve – v. to become successful; to reach or get something by hard work