Equal Pay Day Highlights Persisting Gender Pay Gap

Equality between man and woman concept with beam scales and sign

Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Equal Pay Act required that men and women be paid equally for equal work in the same establishment. Yet today, 64 years later, women in the U.S. still do not earn as much as their male counterparts. Many lamented this fact Tuesday — Equal Pay Day — noting that there’s not much to celebrate.

Although the pay gap in the U.S. has narrowed since 1980, in 2015, women still only earned 83 percent of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. With more work to be done to move the needle, Congress recognized Equal Pay Day by reintroducing legislation to strengthen protections for women in the workplace. Additionally, Trump acknowledged the day on Twitter, saying, “Today, on #EqualPayDay, we are reminded that women deserve equal pay for equal work.”

However, much of the conversation this week has focused on the White House’s March 27 reversal of the Obama administration’s 2014 Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which critics say is a step backwards for women’s rights in the workplace. Signed into law following a 2010 investigation showing that businesses with excessive violations received millions of dollars in federal contracts, the order ensured that companies with federal contracts complied with 14 labor and civil rights laws.

President Donald Trump’s reversal of the order “essentially forces women to pay to keep companies in business that discriminate against them, with their own tax dollars,” Noreen Farrell, director of the anti-sex discrimination law firm Equal Rights Advocates, told NBC News. “It’s an outrage.”

Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton also took to social media today to acknowledge Equal Pay Day, with the former highlighting the pay gap between men and women of different races and ethnicities, calling the gap “critical to the economic empowerment” of American women. “I am proud to work towards this goal alongside my father and in support of the administration’s commitment to women and families,” she added. Clinton, however, recognized the day by criticizing the Trump administration for its reversal of Obama’s order.

In 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity named April 4 Equal Pay Day to raise awareness of the wage gap between men and women. The organization says the date was selected because it symbolizes how far into the year women have to work to earn what men did in the prior year. According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis, it would take women an extra 44 days of work to earn what men did in 2015.

Many believe the main contributors to the pay gap are maternity leave and motherhood, willingness to negotiate, and employer bias.