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State Of The Union Only Tells Half The Story On Women

Report published in 2013

Wage Gap as Compared to White, non-Hispanic Men’s Earnings, 2012

President Barack Obama mentioned the following Tuesday evening in his State of the Union, “Today, women make up about half our workforce.  But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.  She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.  It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.  This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

He is definitely correct in saying that it is an embarrassment, and perhaps naively hopeful that Congress will be a part of any improved opportunity in changing equal pay workplace policies. But where he is incorrect is saying that they make 77 cents on the dollar. Professional white women make 77 cents on the dollar. The last time I checked, that’s actually not the majority of women in this country.

According to the National Women’s Law Center study in September of 2013, In 2012, African-American women working full time, year round were paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men – wage gaps that are both wider than for women overall.

This translates to a loss of $18,650 for African-American Women, and $24,111 for Hispanic women in 2012.

So maybe we are more mired in Mad Menesque days than we thought. Back in 1960, the 38 percent of American women who worked were largely limited to jobs as teacher, nurse, or secretary, jobs that were already low wage. Peggy, our heroine on Mad Men, a white, educated woman, made $35 a week, or about $1,820 a year, working in Sterling Cooper’s office in 1960.

Let’s look at a profession that is comparable to today. Back in 1960, hospice workers were making $6,760 a year. The MEDIAN wage now, for a home care aide, is $21,601, for a job of comparable duties. Adjusted for inflation, this wage should actually be $53,202.34. Keep in mind that more than fifty percent of this field is composed by female minorities.

Yeah, I’d say we have a long way to go.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a Boston-based journalist who has written for In These Times, Open Media Boston, Spare Change News, Boston.com, the Boston Globe Environment Blog, and has had work appear in video on the National Geographic Water Currents Blog. She writes primarily about Boston politics, labor, Generation Y issues, and environmental policy.

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