NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Working to eliminate the persistently stagnant gender wage gap in the United States – American women working full-time have earned, on average, 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts for the last decade – is a challenge complicated by an overall lack of awareness that any gap exists in the workplace.
“Almost uniformly people find out by accident that they are being paid less than co-workers,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the vice president for education and employment at the Washington, D.C.-based National Women's Law Center. “They find out over drinks, over coffee, because someone accidentally says something. In the case of Lilly Ledbetter, someone left her an anonymous note.”
The short- and long-term costs of the difference in pay between women and men in the United States – a trend that fluctuates based on ethnicity, race, geographic location, profession and age, but persistently points in the favor of men – are considerable.
The gap in earnings for the average full-time American woman results in a loss of $11,084 per year in median earnings, according to the National Women's Law Center, which released its compiled findings ahead of Equal Pay Day on April 9. Over a 40-year-period, as the gender wage gap widens over a course of a woman's career, this amount totals a cumulative $443,360.
The losses continue to follow women past their careers, as the average Social Security benefit for women over the age of 65 was about $12,700 per year, compared to $16,700 for men in 2011.
And the losses are felt more acutely for African-American and Hispanic women – who make 64 cents and 55 cents for every dollar to their white, male counterpart, respectively – as well as for lesbians and for single women without children.