Bridging the Gap on Equal Pay Day

April 10, 2018, 5:49 PM UTC

Today is Equal Pay Day, or the additional number of days the “average” woman in the U.S. has to work this year to catch up to what men earned in 2017 alone.

Women on average are paid 20% less than men. But that doesn’t tell the full story: This year, equal pay day for black women comes on Aug. 7 and for Latinas on Nov. 1.

In more stark terms, black women earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man, while Native women earn 57 cents, Latinas earn 54 cents, and the “average” mom earns 71 cents for every dollar a man makes. While women of Asian heritage earn 87 cents on average, there is significant variation within that population largely based on country of origin, so many Asian women earn substantially less.

But 20% is a good way to make a point, so let’s build on it. has enlisted Adidas, Lyft, P&G, and Reebok in a clever awareness campaign designed to remind people how much 20% less really is. What if you only got 80% of a pair of tennis shoes? Although I’m sure your Lyft driver will take you all the way to your destination, an unequal sign will pop up in the app when you’ve got 20% of your ride left to go.

Speaking of making good points, Fortune’s sister-in-equality, Kristen Bellstrom, makes five — by busting some persistent myths in a piece about the gender pay gap that is ideal for sharing with skeptics or the one in three people who don’t know that it even exists. (Also, do yourself a favor and subscribe to the Broadsheet here, a daily newsletter about powerful women that everyone is welcome to read.)

Bellstrom helps explain how the number is calculated and also debunks some annoying notions—like women aren’t as confident or educated as men. But perhaps the most galling myth is the idea that lower pay is justified because women have less experience.

While experience can play a role in the gap, it can’t be used to explain away the phenomenon. Consider a new study from Hired, reported by Recode, which shows that, in certain industries, the wage gap actually grows as women gain experience.

Drawing on a sample of 420,000 interview requests and job offers among 10,000 participating companies and about 98,000 job candidates, Hired found that within the first two years of working in a tech role, women ask for and receive 98% of what men in the same job at the same company are paid. Compare that to women with seven to 10 years of experience, who are offered, on average, 93% of what men are offered. Women with 13 to 14 years of experience receive 92% of what their male counterparts are paid for the same job.

So, what’s it going to take to bridge the gap? Here’s a list of policy suggestions that you may want to consider supporting from the National Women’s Law Center:

  • Strengthen our equal pay laws so that women have the tools they need to fight back against pay discrimination.
  • Build ladders to higher-wage jobs for women by removing barriers to entry into male-dominated fields.
  • Lift up the wages of women in low-wage jobs by raising the minimum wage and ensuring that tipped workers receive at least the regular minimum wage before tips.
  • Increase the availability of high-quality, affordable child care.
  • Help prevent and remedy caregiver discrimination, and protect workers from pregnancy discrimination.
  • Establish fair scheduling practices that allow employees to meet their caregiving responsibilities and other obligations.
  • Provide paid family and medical leave and paid sick days.
  • Ensure women’s access to the affordable reproductive healthcare they need.
  • Protect workers’ ability to collectively bargain.

Here’s another idea: You could earmark 20% of your day (or week, etc.) to advocating for yourself or talking with female colleagues who might welcome the chance to learn what you know about how compensation and career advancement works at your firm.

Technologist Anjuan Simmons calls this “lending privilege,” a leadership practice of everyday people with everyday power who share their access, credibility, or knowledge with others. He wants it to become a thing. “What we’re really looking to do is create a grassroots movement of individual people making changes based on their sense of fairness,” he says.

Bridge the gap, make a friend. Nice, right?

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