Analysts Hesitant About Equal Pay Progress as Women Have Left Workforce During Pandemic

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Experts contend that policies that support affordable child care and improve paid leave would help further narrow the gender wage gap. - (Adobe Stock)
(Adobe Stock)
Experts contend that policies that support affordable child care and improve paid leave would help further narrow the gender wage gap.


Today is Equal Pay Day, marking how far into the year women must work to earn what men were paid in 2021.

While there appears to be progress in narrowing the gap, policy analysts suspect it is a statistical illusion.

Women working full-time year-round earn 83 cents for every dollar paid to men, about a penny more than last year.

Erin Ryan, managing director of the Ohio Women's Public Policy Network, noted the data failed to take into account the low-wage women pushed out of the workforce during the pandemic.

"It makes it seem as if everyone's wages have gone up, when in reality it's the loss of women in these sectors," Ryan explained. "The loss of women because of having to leave for caregiving reasons that has created that narrowing of the wage gap."

There are more than one million fewer women in the labor force than in early 2020. Ohio's gender wage gap is slightly worse than the national average at 79 cents on the dollar, and there are disparities as well. Black women in Ohio make 64 cents for every dollar paid to white men and for Latina women in Ohio it's 61 cents.

Ryan pointed out inequities in pay are contributing to the wealth gap, which affects the long-term economic security of families and communities.

"We really look at the data of cents on the dollar that women are missing, but it added up over time," Ryan reported. "This has an impact over their lifetime in their ability to excel in their workforce, to pay for basic necessities, to build retirement savings."

And she noted in Ohio, measures that would create new requirements for employers to ensure women and men are paid equally have consistently failed.

"These bills are introduced session after session after session," Ryan remarked. "They have wide support from worker-friendly groups, women's groups, and they don't move forward regardless of the fact that they would make a really foundational difference in the lives of women and families who are held back by not having equal pay."

Nationally in 2019, full-time working women earned roughly $10,000 dollars a year less than men.
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