History of Fighting the Gender Wage Gap Part III (8/10)

Source: U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on Education and Labor. Equal Pay Act of 1963. 2nd sess., 1963. Doc. 309, serial 12541. Read it online.

Thus far, an indepth look has been taken into the roles that publications have played in drawing attention to the issue of women and the wage gap. Between the National Labor War Board’s publication and Eleanor Roosevelt’s efforts in publishing the Universal Decleration of Human Rights and serving on other various committees, the gender wage gap had been brought to light on both a national and international stage. In continuing the study of fighitng the wage gap, it is essential to also look at the first act of official legislation concerning the gender wage gap that carried legal power. As Charlotte Alter stated in her Time Magazine article, the first national legislation passed on women’s equal pay was in 1963 (see Blog Post 1). Unlike its predecessors, this legislation was actual law. In this blog post, analyzing this piece of legislation will lead to an understanding of the Act’s ability to start the wage gap’s close.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 started official action towards ending the gender wage gap. This document declared that “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions…” Stated simply, Congress declared that women performing the same type of work could not be paid less for equal quality of work.

As was argued in Mary Anderson’s Article Wages for Women Workers, (see Blog Post 3) women deserve the same pay for the same work. Of course in our modern perspective that makes perfect sense. But this ground breaking idea prompted the nation to move towards equal pay for its women. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 allowed all women access to the equal pay they had earned. This first federal legislation caused the nation to act against the gender wage gap.

This Act allowed the door to be opened on discussing the issue of equal pay. Within in the first 10 years of this act having been passed, the wage gap fell significantly. In the 1950s and 1960s, women earned 50% of every dollar men made. By 1970, only seven years after the Act was passed, the gap was at 59%. 10% in seven years represented a significant start to closing the wage gap. This gap would only continue to decrease as time went on, reaching 79.6% in 2015.

This piece of legislation was the first step in a long process of closing the wage gap. And though the wage gap continues to persist today, historians understand the significance of the victory of 1963. CNBC reports that if the current trend continues, the wage gap won’t officially close until 2058. That forces us to ask the question, what more can we do? Was the Act in 1963 enough? Can America survive a century long struggle over the wage gap?

Other Sources used in this post:
Equal Pay Act Information: Click here to view article on the Equal Pay Act
National Committee on Pay Equity: Click here to view wage gap table.
CNBC Article: Click here to view

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2 thoughts on “History of Fighting the Gender Wage Gap Part III (8/10)

  1. With the passing of the equal pay act, how is it that women are still paid less than men–are employers punished at all for not paying equally? Additionally, does the fact that the government is heavily male-dominated play a role in the fact that the wage gap battle has been so long-fought?

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  2. It seems like this problem could easily be solved with a piece of legislation and some oversight to ensure it was adhered to. Why was the Equal Pay Act of 1963 insufficient in fixing the wage gap? That was more than half a century ago, and we are still dealing with the problem today. Perhaps this suggests that more than legislation is necessary for this trend to end.

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