Wage Bias Against Women Still Prevalent

–Black women earn 62% compared to men’s earnings and Hispanic women make 54%, says IWPR.

In case you missed it, June 10 marked the 57th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This begs the question: is gender-based wage discrimination still a persistent problem in the 21st-century workplace?

Many men might say no. However, it’s a different story for most women. The Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress and signed by President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in the White House Oval Office surrounded by working women more than one-half century ago (photo below).

Gender Bias vs. Life Choices

Gender-based pay inequality is not just a problem for working women but also for entire families. Women are still being short-changed regardless of the sector in which they work.

An article by Money ( states:

  • “The persistent issue has plagued women and particularly women of color for decades — so much so that there was an official Equal Pay Day established in 1996.”
  • “But despite the growing #MeToo movement and increased attention on the equal pay disparity, research shows little progression on closing the gender wage gap.”
    The pay gap is particularly onerous for those families where women are the sole “breadwinners” or earn more than their spouses, which is more common today than ever.

As President Obama previously stated:

  • “When more women are bringing home the bacon, they shouldn’t just be getting a little bit of bacon. If they’re bringing home more of the income and that income is less than a fair share, that means that families have less to get by on, for child care or health care or gas or groceries.”
  • Pay inequality “makes it harder for middle-class families to save and retire. It leaves small businesses with customers who have less money in their pockets, which is not good for the economy.”
  • “Yet from boardrooms to classrooms to factory floors, [women’s] talent and hard work are not reflected on the payroll.”

Male-dominated workplaces remain too commonplace, negatively affecting women at nearly every socioeconomic level. Some argue the issue of pay inequity is strictly due to continuing sex-based discrimination against women — whether blatant or subtle, intentional or unintentional, conscious or unconscious.

Many working women remain undervalued and unfairly compensated in all professions compared to their male counterparts. Meanwhile, others claim the persistent gender pay gap exists because of individual choices made by women, specifically leaving the workforce because of pregnancy and raising children. So who’s right about the age-old equal pay argument over sex discrimination versus life choices made by women?

Understanding Equal Pay

It’s perplexing to understand why unequal pay for women has been problematic for so long, despite legislative remedies over the decades buttressed by more women in the workplace. How does the Equal Pay Act factor into the equation? What does this law mean for employers and working women? Is the 57-year-old Equal Pay Act still working?

According to the EEOC:

  • “The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work.”
  • “The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal.”
  • “All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.”
  • “If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.”

In addition to the Equal Pay Act, women can file sex-based wage bias charges with the EEOC under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as private lawsuits. To supplement the Equal Pay Act, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009. Obama also established a National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force in 2010.

Final Thoughts

Devaluing women’s work — as evidenced by perpetual pay inequity — is a travesty for a nation that prides itself on equality for all. Nevertheless, it appears that societal attitudes by corporate management and leadership have failed to keep pace with progressive laws to level the playing field.

Women now comprise more than half the U.S. labor force at nearly 52%, a figure projected to hold steady through at least 2024 (according to the latest available data from Further, more women than men now earn college and graduate degrees, as noted above.

More must be done to bridge the pay gap for all working women. This will move America closer to gender equality and benefit the overall economy.

You might think that President Trump would have taken a special interest in gender-based pay equity due to his daughter’s business acumen — not to mention his own. Yet while Ivanka Trump has championed the issue of equal pay, her father has ignored this persistent problem for tens of millions of working women.

The day when the gender pay gap is closed cannot come soon enough to usher in a new era of equality for women. Until that day arrives, we should all be mindful that women in the workplace, or any other place, deserve equal justice and equal opportunity under the law. Anything less would defy the morals and principles at the foundation of the American Dream.

While incremental gains have been made since the Equal Pay Act became law 57 years ago, the issue of pay parity for women remains elusive. The question is why?

What do YOU think?

Editor’s Note: This article appeared on The Good Men Project and is featured here with author permission.


David B. Grinberg
David B. Grinberg
David is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter, and literary PR agent on issues of workforce diversity, equal employment opportunity, race and gender equity, and other social justice causes. He is a former career spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where he managed media relations for agency headquarters and 50 field offices nationwide for over a decade. Prior to his public service at the EEOC, David was a young political appointee for President Bill Clinton in the White House: Office of Presidential Personnel, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A native New Yorker and University of Maryland graduate, David began his career in journalism. You can find David online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Good Men Project, Thrive Global, BIZCATALYST 360°, and American Diversity Report.

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  1. Thank you for the article David. There is much to digest. As a professional woman, I have faced this issue in former careers. It was so blatant at times. I recall a new hire being paid more than me – he had no prior experience, no college education, and as it turned out no work ethic. He wasn’t there long, but made more money than I did to start. (I had been there for four years.)

    I’m not sure how the issue could be resolved, but I do know it involves women using their voices loudly and proudly. And also to have men (much like yourself) who see the issues and call attention to them.

    Women in America have overcome a lot in the past and have much more to overcome. It is humorous to me to have America described as the “Land of the Free”. I suppose there is an element of truth in there, but it seems to me it’s more of a smoke screen.

    • Joanna, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I share your sentiments and long fir the day when America has a woman occupying the presidency—and greater gender equity generally.

  2. Thank you for highlighting this challenge in our society. You’ve offered much information to be digested. I agree wholeheartedly with your stand for pay equity. I also offer the following reflections about systemic sexism.

    Until we value, really value the work of full-time parents, we will still struggle with equality. Being a healthy, conscious, skilled parent happens to be one of the most important jobs for a healthy society, democracy, and world. Pitting full-time parents against those parents who work outside the home has not been especially helpful. I find what other countries do to support women and families to be very inspiring-especially the Dutch-when you look at studies about levels of happiness (sense of fulfillment in living life), the countries that support women and families in their policies and actual practices-rank high in happiness.

    Every day that a full-time parent, who happens to be a woman, is devalued by a society that measures worth by a pay check-that society devalues women’s work. Every day that a full-time parent cares for a child and an aging parent-without any compensation-(again, if we’ve chosen to demonstrate “worth/value” with a paycheck)-that individuals’ meaningful, sometimes heroic work becomes invisible, not even measured or factored into the equation. After divorce most women are left impoverished.

    Not only is pay inequity a challenge, so is sexual harassment (in all arenas where women work including the military), domestic violence, rape, and systemic sexism. Until limiting beliefs about women are examined, shred, and replaced by empowering ones (by both women and men), and new behaviors (the best apology is changed behavior!), until we fully embrace all possibilities for what women can do and create, all the ways women contribute, then the systemic inequities will persist. We have much work to do to dismantle the many ways that systemic oppression exists and create a world where all people are seen, heard, and valued for their many gifts, talents, skills, and contributions.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my additional reflections, David.