As it stands, women make 80 cents to every dollar men earn. Now, Congress is working to ensure that doesn't change anytime soon. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a budget amendment that would defund an Obama-era initiative to reduce wage disparities.
During the Obama administration, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced requirements for firms employing 100 or more people to submit employee pay data by gender, race, and job category starting in March 2018. The purpose of collecting this data, according to to the agency, is to support its "law enforcement efforts" to end wage discrimination.
The new budget amendment, which the Committee quietly approved during this week's horrifying and hectic news cycle, would prohibit the EEOC from using funds to collect employer's pay data, Reveal reports.
Collecting this kind of demographic data is important, advocates say, because women can't determine if they're being underpaid without knowing what their male counterparts actually make. "We have had laws in place for a very long time that say people get equal pay for equal work, but the reality is that there is inequality in pay," said Julie Kashen, the policy director of Make it Work, in a phone interview. "Women need to know if they are being paid less, and we need enforcement agencies to be able to detect when people are being paid unfairly."
Tracy Sturdivant, the co-founder and co-executive director of Make It Work, called the move "an unacceptable and deliberate attack on women in the workplace," noting that women of color will be particularly impacted by the lack of transparency. "Black and Hispanic women… are currently paid only 63 cents and 54 cents to the dollar white men are paid, respectively," she said in a statement. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and that's why pay transparency is so important. We need a public database to ensure that everyone can see whether they're being paid a fair wage compared to others in their same job category."
It's taken 35 years to narrow the pay gap by just 20 cents, and data shows that women lose out on $500,000 in pay during their lifetime because of it. This wage disparity is not only making women poorer—recent studies have found that it's also making women physically ill.
But hope it not yet lost, at least for the case of pay transparency: The House Appropriations Committee vote is simply that, a vote in the appropriations committee. "There is still time to fix [this] in a whole House vote," Kashen said. "People need to call their representatives and demand equal pay for equal work.
"Equal pay is two times more popular than the president. Given those numbers, it's time to double down."