North American Women Are Still Six Decades Behind Men in Pay Equity (Video)

It’s no surprise American working women make less money than men.

That is a cruel institutional bias women have had to endure since the dawn of our republic.

While not unique to the United States, nor the lowest in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report for 2021,” North American women in general are not projected to reach pay equity with male counterparts for 61.5 years, despite improvements in political representation.

According to the report, “partly due to their disproportionate representation in sectors directly disrupted by lockdowns,” the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the wage gap, dropping an American woman’s income to 65.4 percent of a male’s.

There are reasons to be optimistic, though.

We have narrowed the gender gap 76.3 percent, ranking us 30th on global women’s issues.

This is up 23 places from the last year.

Although we still have not had a woman president, Vice President Kamala Harris–the first female VP in history–helps to improve the percentage of women holding positions in government to 46.2 percent, up from 21.7.

Women comprise a little over a quarter of current members of Congress.

In “health and survival,” we have closed the gender gap 97 percent.

However, women’s life expectancy has declined three years in the last five.

The United States is unique among nations in that it holds the title for highest maternal death rate of all other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

Highest among those rates are women of color.

This is due in part to the fact the U.S. also holds the title for being the only OECD country without a national single-payer healthcare system.

The first piece of legislation former President Barack Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthened protections against pay discrimination.

Under that law, individuals experiencing wage discrimination predicated on age, religion, national origin, race, sex, and disability are shielded under federal anti-discrimination laws.

It is named after former Alabama Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant manager Lilly Ledbetter, who, after discovering her male coworkers in comparable positions were receiving substantially higher salaries than she, filed a suit citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) .

Despite the court awarding her retroactive pay and more than $3.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) upheld a lower court ruling arguing similar claims needed to be filed within 180 days of employers’ decisions to pay workers less even if workers were not immediately aware of pay discrepancies.

As with healthcare, criminal justice and police reform, electoral reform, campaign finance reform, income inequality, education funding, and immigration, etcetera, we still have a long way to go.

Women having to wait another 61 years before achieving income parity is unacceptable, despite the obvious gains we have made.

In the richest country in world’s history, we can make the wealthy pay their share of taxes, and we can bestow more upon female workers.

Let’s be the exemplars we purport to be.

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.