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Equal Pay Day paints ‘too rosy a picture’ for women during the pandemic

March 15, 2022, 1:49 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Sarah Bloom Raskin’s Fed nomination is imperiled, the EEOC wants to measure nonbinary representation in the workforce, and it’s Equal Pay Day. Have a great Tuesday.

– Pay day. It’s that time of year again. Today, March 15, is Equal Pay Day, denoting how far into the year women in the U.S. must work to match what men earned in the previous year. This year’s Equal Pay Day is the earliest Americans have ever marked the occasion in its roughly 26-year history, and the gender wage gap appears to be narrowing, too. In 2020, the average woman working full-time, year-round earned 83 cents for every male dollar, up one cent from the year prior.

But don’t celebrate too soon. The shrinking of the gender wage gap is a reflection of our pandemic reality, rather than progress. This year’s statistics are based on 2020 data, the first year to show the pandemic’s impact. A smaller wage gap reflects the women who left the workforce in droves that year—not any progress made for those who remained in it.

“A lot of what was driving the apparent shrinkage of the wage gap is that the women who were lowest paid dropped out of the workforce entirely, were unemployed, or pushed into part-time work,” explains Emily Martin, VP for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center. “It looked like progress. But it wasn’t progress because the folks who are making the least made even less.”

In effect, Equal Pay Day only measures the status quo for full-time working women compared to full-time working men. And in the pandemic era, that comparison doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the hurdles women face in their working lives.

More than 1.1 million women left the workforce during the pandemic, and working women still haven’t recovered those losses. Economic recovery remains uneven, often leaving behind women of color. Black women, for instance, earned 63% of what White, non-Hispanic men made in 2020. The U.S. also suffers from a broken childcare system that simultaneously underpays childcare workers while placing the burdens of caregiving on parents, especially mothers.

Still, there are measures of progress worth noting. The White House, for example, took advantage of today’s quasi-holiday to announce some new initiatives for equal pay within the federal workforce. The Office of Personnel Management plans to implement a regulation that would ban salary history inquiries; a recent executive order encourages federal contractors—a meaningful share of U.S. employers—to do the same.

Equal Pay Day may “paint too rosy a picture,” as Martin puts it. But as long as we don’t forget that, it can still be a day worth noting.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Subscribe here.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Fed up. Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to the Federal Reserve board of governors is unlikely to proceed after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he opposed her nomination due to her stance on climate change and energy policy. Raskin is a former Fed governor and served as the deputy Treasury secretary in the Obama administration. Washington Post 

- Whirlwind weekendJane Campion, the Oscar-nominated director, has had an eventful past few days in the press. The Power of the Dog director first drew praise when she labeled actor Sam Elliott's criticism of her film as sexist. But then, she targeted Venus and Serena Williams (who are on the awards circuit with the film King Richard) in an acceptance speech. "Venus and Serena, you are such marvels. However, you do not play against the guys, like I have to," she said onstage at the Critics Choice Awards. Campion apologized on Monday. NBC News

- Lawyer up. General counsels across American businesses expressed their support for Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court on Monday. A group of 183 general counsels at companies ranging from American Airlines to Airbnb signed a letter of support, submitted by the National Women's Law Center, for the judge. Fifty Black women general counsels signed an additional letter of support. 

- Data decision. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is interested in tracking data about nonbinary representation in the U.S. workforce. The agency's interest in tracking the data is likely related to the 2020 Supreme Court decision that expanded workplace protections for LGBT workers. Bloomberg

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Rally RSVP. Ginni Thomas, conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, confirmed in an interview that she attended the rally that took place on Jan. 6, 2021 in protest of the 2020 election results. (She says she did not storm the Capitol after the rally.) Thomas says she doesn't "involve [her husband] in [her] work." CNN

- Rock on. Dolly Parton bowed out of consideration for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nominated in February, the country legend says she's flattered but doesn't feel rock 'n' roll enough for the honor—and doesn't want votes for other artists to be split because of her inclusion. New York Times

- Copycat. Idaho is the first state to move forward with legislation modeled on Texas's abortion law, allowing private citizens to sue to enforce the six-week abortion ban. Idaho's law, passed by the state's House of Representatives, allows lawsuits only against abortion providers, rather than anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion. Washington Post

ON MY RADAR

Moving in with other adults has become a lifeline for single moms hit ‘tenfold’ by the pandemic The 19th

Asian woman punched 125 times in New York attack; suspect charged with attempted murder as hate crime NBC News

What I lost and found when I froze my eggs Refinery29

PARTING WORDS

"I was not a believer that you had to go to all your kids’ games. I just don’t understand what that’s all about."

-Former Xerox chief Ursula Burns on the parenting strategies that helped her become a Fortune 500 CEO

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