‘Inequality still exists’: Congresswoman to hold hearing on pay gap on Equal Pay Day

WASHINGTON – In 2021, pay disparities and discrimination still exist between men and women, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wants people to know that Equal Pay Day is not one of celebration.

“This day marks the extra time it takes an average woman in the United States to earn the same pay that their male counterparts made the previous calendar year,” Maloney, chairwoman for the House Oversight Committee, told USA TODAY. 

Maloney is holding a hearing on Wednesday, Equal Pay Day, to examine the pay gap, the disproportionate inequalities women of color face, discuss several pieces of “feminist legislation,” and hear from witnesses like U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Maloney told USA TODAY ahead of the hearing there is “a long way to go to achieve economic equality for women. The data is abundantly clear that this inequality still exists.” She also emphasized the disparities caused, and exacerbated, by COVID-19.

According to an analysis from the National Women’s Law Center, 100% of the jobs lost in December belonged to women — the coronavirus pandemic has had a disastrous impact disproportionality on women in the workforce. 

In December, according to NWLC, women lost a total of 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000 jobs.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, we saw how women disproportionately shouldered the burden of care. Far too many women go without access to paid leave and affordable child care options and as a result, many are forced to decide between losing income or caring for their family — and many have lost their jobs entirely,” Maloney said, who also noted women of color shoulder most of it.

COVID job losses have hit women of color the hardest. But USA Today's Charisse Jones says there's hope of recovery.

USA TODAY

Since March, Black and Latina moms have stopped working, either voluntarily or due to layoffs, at higher rates than white moms.

Many are single moms who need child care but can’t access it during the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, single moms had higher rates of unemployment than their childless counterparts in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Disparities in sports

However, for decades and across all levels, job types and industries, the pay gap and discrimination as a whole has continued to rear its head.

Rapinoe, who advocates for equal pay, is a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team, which was embroiled in a contentious discrimination lawsuit over equal pay with U.S. Soccer. 

The USWNT sued U.S. Soccer for discrimination in March 2019, alleging the federation had violated both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While the equal pay claim has gotten the most attention, the players also said they were subjected to unequal working conditions.

They were required to play domestic games on fields with artificial turf, which is tougher on a player’s body than natural grass when the U.S. men were not, they alleged. The USWNT also took more commercial flights and stayed in hotels that weren’t as nice as those the U.S. men did.

However, the U.S. women’s team is wildly more successful than the U.S. men’s. The U.S. women won their second consecutive World Cup title in 2019, and fourth overall, and have been the world’s No. 1 team for most of the last decade.

The national team settled its dispute with the federation over unequal working conditions in December, leaving the pay dispute still unresolved.

Additionally, the NCAA in recent weeks has been embroiled in controversy over how the organization administers the respective men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Players and coaches posted pictures showing stark differences between the amenities, food, gifts and eventhe facilities, such as the men’s weight room compared to a small rack of dumbbells for the women.

The problems Rapinoe, and her teammates and female college basketball players have faced are not an anomaly. 

Women in all positions and industries continue to face workplace hardships such as fewer promotions, less support and implicit bias. They experience pregnancy discrimination, exclusion from the so-called “boy’s club” and sexual harassment.

On top of all that, they’re are paid 80 cents on average for every dollar a man makes – a trend that’s expected to continue through the 23rd century.

At current rates of change, the global gender pay gap will close in 257 years, according to the World Economic Forum in 2019. That’s even worse than the year before, when the organization estimated it would take 202 years to close the gap.

“This is a day when we reflect on this reality and examine what more we need to do, which is exactly what we’re doing with today’s hearing,” Maloney said of Equal Pay .

During the hearing, the committee will also examine several pieces of legislation that either recently passed the House or are expected to be brought up for a vote soon. 

The Violence Against Women Act — landmark legislation championed by President Joe Biden that enshrined federal protections and support for survivors — will soon be making its way to a gridlocked Senate for reauthorization. 

But the legislation is sure to face criticism on one of the main points of contention from Republicans: the proposed elimination of the “boyfriend loophole,” which would prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking or domestic violence from buying a gun.

The committee will also discuss other measures like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Child Care for Working Families Act. 

“Passing and enacting comprehensive feminist legislation will help ensure full economic inclusion and equity for women,” Maloney said.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Nancy Armour, Dalvin Brown, Grace Hauck USA TODAY

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