What is Equal Pay Day?

Over 50 years ago, the U.S. passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women in the same workplace who perform substantially equal work. Despite the EPA and advancements in women’s economic status, wage discrimination still persists in every state and virtually every occupation.

Equal Pay Day was established by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 to highlight the gap between men’s and women’s wages. This date is based on the latest U.S. Census figures showing that the average woman who works full time is paid on average just 84 percent of the typical man’s pay. Women of color experience even wider pay gaps. Unless action is taken, the pay gap between men’s and women’s earnings will not close until 2088.

This gender pay gap means big losses in income not just for individual women, but for their families as well. The income losses affect a woman worker’s ability to build financial security over time and increases the risk that they will need to take on debt just to cover basic expenses and emergencies. The effect of lower wages during a woman’s career also will result in a smaller Social Security check in retirement.

What does this pay inequality look like in concrete terms?

The average woman must work far into the next year to earn what the average man earns in the previous year. According to the organization Equal Pay Today, if the gender wage gap were eliminated, the average woman would have enough additional money every year for:

  • An entire additional year of childcare;
  • One year of tuition and fees for a 4-year public university, or the full cost of tuition and fees for a 2-year college;
  • More than 9 months of rent for the following year;
  • 7 months of health insurance (premiums through employer-based plans);
  • More than a year’s worth of food; OR
  • Enough money to pay off their student loan debt in under 4 years.

What can be done to close the gap?

The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) has been introduced into every Congress since the mid-1990s. The bipartisan bill was introduced into Congress again in 2023, and currently has over 50 co-sponsors. The PFA would revise existing laws to better protect works from retaliation and prohibit employment contracts that prevent workers from talking about or sharing wage information. It also would prohibit employers from relying on wage history in considering a job application, seeking an applicant’s wage history before an offer of employment is made, and using wage history to set a new employee’s wages. Violators of those new prohibitions would be subject to civil monetary penalties. This legislation would help close the gender/race pay gaps that affect nearly all employed women and will address the wealth gap and persistent poverty that exists for women and their families in so many communities.

For more information see:

Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day Calendar

Equal Pay Quick Facts