Equal Pay Day recognizes gender wage gap and COVID-19 impact

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Tuesday, March 31 is National Equal Pay Day, symbolizing the fact that the average American woman must work three months into 2020 to earn what the average American man made in 2019.

Tuesday, March 31 is Equal Pay Day
Tuesday, March 31 is Equal Pay Day. Stock photo

In Vermont, the median annual income for women who work full-time is $41,146. That’s about $8,000 less than the median annual salary of men, equating to a loss or a “wage gap” of 16 cents to every dollar earned. While the gender wage gap in Vermont has narrowed over time, progress is slow: in 2007, the wage gap was about 16 cents on the dollar. Since then it has risen almost as much as it has dropped.

Every year, advocates call attention to the wage gap on this day and to the factors that contribute to it. Policymakers focus on this as well, even this year. In advance of Equal Pay Day, Gov. Scott issued a Proclamation, which states, “We must work to improve the intersecting factors of bias, discrimination, and gender expectations that contribute to the wage gap, including pay differences between men’s and women’s traditional occupations, women’s time out of the workforce to meet unequal family responsibilities, and the disproportionate impacts of sexual harassment and intimate partner violence.”

Women’s full-time earnings in Vermont are lower than men’s in every county, at every education level, and at every age. The differences are more pronounced for women of color and those living with disabilities. The wage gap still exists in even female-dominated professions, like those currently on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, who can’t work from home, like nurses, psychiatric and home health aides, and grocery store cashiers.

“Of course, in addition to the wage gap, we’re concerned about income and job loss for Vermont women and their families, and the long-term economic impact of COVID-19,” said Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women. “We know from our partnership initiative Change The Story VT’s latest report, ‘Women, Work, and Wages in Vermont,’ that women make up 53.5% of Vermonters who earn less than $11.00 an hour. Those women aren’t students; their median age is 38 years old, and 28% have at least some post-secondary education. We also know from this research that over 81% of Vermont’s tipped workers are women – the highest rate in the nation. Lower-wage and tipped workers are experiencing dramatic income and job loss as businesses close to prevent coronavirus spread.”

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