Everything You Need to Know about the Equal Pay Act

Known for feisty quotes and progressive politics well ahead of her time, Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) initiated a bill to commemorate the day the Nineteenth Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, became law. The U.S. Congress declared August 26th Women’s Equality Day in 1971. Eight years prior, the Equal Pay Act was signed by President Kennedy with the intention of ending gender-based pay discrimination. Together, Women’s Equality Day and the Equal Pay Act signaled an important step forward in the nation’s commitment to women exercising their right to participate meaningfully in civil and political affairs and become thriving citizens in socioeconomic spheres.

And yet 40 years later, women are still robbed of 23 cents for every dollar a man makes in the U.S.  Even with the passage of five groundbreaking laws to prevent discrimination in the workplace – e.g., the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act – the gender pay gap is still an intractable problem. This primer explores the historical, legal and legislative background of gender and pay discrimination issues in the U.S. using a gender lens. It looks at how the pay gap relates to larger ideas about ourselves as workers and the forces at play in work-life issues. Finally, it presents prominent sociological arguments for why the pay gap exists and persists, as well as best practices from peer nations that are worthy of consideration in a U.S. context.