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Equal Pay Day: Raising minimum wage will help women – and the economy

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Countless workers are harmed by these low wages, women especially. Today, Equal Pay Day, serves as a stark reminder of that reality. April 9, 2013 marks how far into 2013 a woman must work to match what a man earned in 2012. Women represent nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers and are a large majority of workers in the 10 largest occupations typically paying less than $10 an hour: They constitute 88 percent of home health-care professionals, 88 percent of maids and housekeepers, and 94 percent of childcare workers. They also represent about two-thirds of tipped workers – and the tipped minimum cash wage of $2.13 per hour hasn’t been raised for more than 20 years.

Raising the minimum wage wouldn’t just help these women make ends meet; it would also help close the gender wage gap. In 2011, women working full time, year round were paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. The wage gap was even larger for women of color: Black women working full time, year round made only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 55 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. 

Of course, multiple factors contribute to the wage gap, including pay discrimination, family caregiving obligations that constrain women’s employment opportunities, and the undervaluing of work traditionally performed by women. But the bottom line is that women – and their families – are disproportionately affected by the low minimum wage.

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