Women Legislators, Advocates Mark ‘Equal Pay Day,’ Call to Close Gender Wage Gap

DOVER – Calling for a continued, sustained effort to close the gender wage gap, women legislators from both parties and both chambers joined advocates from numerous women’s groups in marking Tuesday as Equal Pay Day in Delaware.

Despite more than a half-century passing since the Equal Pay Act was enacted, Delaware women working full-time earned on average only 82 percent of the earnings of full-time working men, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Over the course of a woman’s working career, that gender wage gap translates into approximately $431,000 in lost wages compared to a male counterpart, according to an analysis by the American Association of University Women.

“I have personally felt the effects of being a woman in the professional world, being paid far less than a male co-worker who was less qualified than I was,” said Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, who sponsored a resolution marking today as Equal Pay day in Delaware. “Women are increasingly the breadwinners in their families and heads of households. Women are more than half of Delaware’s workforce, but we lag behind when it comes to equal pay. By calling attention to this issue each year, we keep a spotlight focused on it until we are successful at closing that gap completely.”

An analysis by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics data in more than 300 classifications showed that women earn less in virtually every occupational classification, including occupations traditionally dominated by women.

The pay disparity is even greater when looking at minority women. African-American women living in Delaware earn 70 cents for every dollar that white men earn. Hispanic women living in Delaware earn just 64 cents for every dollar that white men earn. 

“Women of color are most glaringly impacted by our nation’s economic inequalities, and but these statistics make it clear that those inequalities are both widespread and systemic,” said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry. “This is not a problem being resolved quickly enough by the free market, so as policy makers we must insist on continued action until these harmful disparities are eliminated once and for all.”

Women wear red for Equal Pay Day to symbolize that women are “in the red” regarding their pay compared to men.

“Women have come a long way throughout history, but we still have much work to do to reach true equality in society,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst. “Many of us stood together last year to push for legislation to improve the lives of Delaware women. I’m proud of the fact that we continue to move forward when it comes to women’s issues. It’s important that we continue to push for equal pay for equal work and don’t stop until we’ve reached that goal.”

Several women’s groups, including the American Association of University Women of Delaware, the Delaware Commission for Women, and the League of Women Voters of Delaware joined legislators to support the call for equal pay for women.

“Paying a woman less for the same job she is doing side by side with a man is wrong. Fairness demands that all people be paid based on their skill, experience, and training -- not their gender,” said Linda Barnett, co-chair for Public Policy of AAUW Delaware.

House Concurrent Resolution 62 will be considered by the General Assembly Tuesday, acknowledging that equal pay for women matters to the people of Delaware.  Sponsoring the Resolution are House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, Rep. Bolden, Sen. Henry and Sen. Nicole Poore.