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Pay Gap Narrows, but Michigan Women Still Earn Less Than Men

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021   

LANSING, Mich. - While the wage gap between men and women has narrowed over time, there are concerns the pandemic's disproportionate economic toll on women will have ramifications for years to come.

Today is Equal Pay Day, marking the date when women's earnings catch up to what men earned in 2020. Michigan women are paid, on average, about 78 cents for each dollar earned by a man.

Mary Pollock, government relations coordinator for the American Association of University Women in Michigan, is concerned the gap will widen as a result of the pandemic.

"More women have left the workforce over the last year than men have, and have been the highest unemployment rate," she said, "and really has exposed our lack of a national policy on child care and paid leave."

She said the wage gap for many women of color is not only wider than the overall women's wage gap, it's also closing more slowly. The wage gap for white women is expected to close in 50 years at its current rate - compared with 350 for Black women and 432 years for Latina women.

Pollock said large structural changes are needed to close the wage gap, including paid sick leave and policies that prevent employers from using salary history to set wages and prohibiting employees from talking about their salaries. She added that private employers also play a role.

"Before they become a subject of litigation or complaints," she said, "they need to take action to close the pay gaps in their own companies and in their workplaces, by looking at what their policies are."

There also are calls for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, to update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Institute for Women's Policy Research found that women earned less than men in nearly all occupations in 2020.


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