Equal Pay Is a Long, Long Way Away

If you’re a woman living in the state of Wyoming, you won’t see equal pay until 2159 — that’s more than century away.

The Status of Women in the States, a project from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, just released its findings on how long it will take to narrow the pay gap in the U.S. As you can see from Wyoming, the results are pretty grim.

The report analyzes women’s employment and earnings data and provides state rankings and letter grades to show where in the U.S. things may be better or worse for women and their wallets. The best place for us is The District of Columbia; they get an A. Worst is West Virginia with a rather eloquent F.

The typical woman working in the U.S. loses a whopping $530,000 over her lifetime thanks to the gender pay inequities, and if you’re a well-educated woman, your losses are even greater, according to the report. A woman with a college education who works full time will have lost nearly $800,000 by the time she turns 59.

Ouch doesn’t cover it. That financial hit is literally life changing. The quality of life and retirement implications alone are making steam come out of my ears. This is beyond unfair; it’s criminal.

An IWPR release put it into context like this: “Nationally, a woman working full-time, year-round with a bachelor’s degree earns wages comparable to a man with an associate’s degree, and a woman with a graduate degree earns less than men with bachelor’s degree.”

Disparities are more marked for Southern women — I already mentioned West Virginia, and ladies in Louisiana and Utah are under deep water as well — as well as for women of color and of different ethnicities. Hispanic women are hit the hardest. They earn $28,000 annually vs. all other women with $38,000 — white men earn $52,000 per year.

It’s a pitiful situation, and there’s easily a dozen reasons why these gender pay gap exists. For instance, men are more than twice as likely to work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations, which are often better paid. Women are most likely to work in STEM jobs in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Maryland, the three states with the highest median annual income for women.

But the key is, why don’t women work in these higher paying industries? Hint: It’s not because they can’t do the jobs. More hints: bias, discrimination, poor negotiation skills, harassment, noninclusive cultures. I could go on, but I don’t want my fingers to cramp up.

For me — and any other woman — it doesn’t add up, literally. Unless someone can definitively prove to me that men are smarter and better workers, and therefore deserve to make more money than women, we need legislation like yesterday to correct these lopsided pay gaps. I’m talking from the highest reaches of federal and state government on down, with punitive measures for companies that don’t correct these inequities ASAP.

It’s 2015. We need to push merit, not sex. Women have proven the depth and reach of our contributions in the workforce on a global scale. This should not be happening.