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What is Equal Pay Day and what work still needs to be done?

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how much longer it takes for women to make the same income as a man from the year before.

AUSTIN, Texas — March 14 is recognized as Equal Pay Day, a day to highlight the issues that relate to the gender wage gap.

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how much longer it takes for women to make the same income as a man from the year before. After every number is compiled, it would take women two and a half months to catch up to the national average salary of men.

According to recent data from the Chamber of Commerce, Austin ranks No. 13 in the nation for the largest gender pay gaps. Austin’s gender pay gap is $20,516, which is 87% higher than the national average of $11,165.

To put into perspective, the data showed that the median earnings for men in Austin came in at $77,464, whereas the median earnings for women in Austin was $56,948.

Christen Smith, director for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, said most women don’t even know they’re earning less than their male counterparts. Due to that, raising awareness and recognizing the issue is key. 

"There's no reason why people with equal qualifications should not be paid equally. That's basically what we're talking about here. We're talking about people who have the same training, the same education, and many times we know women and particularly women of color have more education and more training and are getting less nevertheless. So we need to pay attention to it," Smith said. 

Smith explained that there also needs to be change in polices and practices around hiring and negotiation. Employers need to be told what it means to pay people equally. 

"We have to recognize that when we talk about $0.83 on the dollar, we're talking about women overall. When we think about Black women, Black women earn about half of what white women earn nationally. That is absolutely appalling when you think about it. The wealth gap, when we think intersectionality or when we think about race and gender together impacts Black and Latino women disproportionately," said Smith. 

According to a CNN Business report, the pay gap has been shrinking, albeit slowly, over the past two decades. Equal Pay Day, started in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, now arrives close to month earlier than it used to. Back in 2005, Equal Pay Day was April 19.

However, according to Smith, those that want to see change should put pressure on local and state governments to consider policies surrounding equal pay. Additionally, people should pay attention to how we as a society are acting on this everyday.

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