April 28, 2009 posted by Kyla Bender-Baird I post this today, in honor of Fair Pay Day, with a sense of both frustration and hope. I’m frustrated that three decades have gone by after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and we still don’t have pay equity. I’m frustrated that what progress we’ve made has been achingly slow and small. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the wage gap has closed by less than half of one cent per year  since the Equal Pay Act of 1963. At the current rate of progress, it will take 50 years to close the wage gap . This is simply intolerable. It is unacceptable that after decades of feminist lobbying, women continue to earn only 78 cents for every man’s dollar. In some occupations, the gap is even wider. Among finance and insurance occupations, women earn 55.2 cents on the dollar and the wage gap among physician surgeons is 63.5%. Even as I write this, I’m struck by Michael Kimmel’s recent comment at a panel I attended , questioning why we discuss women’s wages as a function of men’s wages. Why not make male privilege and the gendered dynamics of the economy more visible by reversing the equation? Men make $1.28 for every woman’s dollar. Despite this frustration, however, I remain optimistic. This optimism springs from an unlikely source: the economic downturn.
With 4/5 of the job losses affecting men , women are increasingly stepping in as primary breadwinners. This is shaking up the gendered dynamics of not only our economy but also our homes. Deborah Siegel  is documenting this domestic shake-up over at Recession Wire . And recent research released by the Families and Work Institute  found that almost half of employees no longer buy into the male-earner/women-caregiver dynamic duo roles. This is good news given that the Institute for Women’s Research discovered a 62 percent gender wage gap over 15 years due to the traditional imbalance of family responsibility. As our cultural values shift traditional notions of the labor force, so must the economic situation. With this gender shake-up spurred by the economic downturn, the pay gap is jeopardizing the well-being of women and their families. As Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress recently stated  “if ever there was a moment to push for pay equity, this is the moment.” Luckily, feminists are all over it! Thanks to the persistent and tireless work of many women’s organizations, Obama restored our power of recourse in the face of blatant wage discrimination as his first Presidential act by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on January 29. But the work does not stop there. The National Organization of Women , MomsRising , along with many other social justice organizations, are pushing for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. This act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and further deter wage discrimination. Finally, the National Women’s Law Center is compiling all the fantastic blogging happening today as part of Blog for Fair Pay Day. Check it out !