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Women in Low-Wage Jobs Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work

It should be startling that even in the ten largest jobs that pay very low wages –$10.10 an hour or less – women still see a 10 cent gender wage gap on the dollar.* And this is despite the fact that women make up more than three-quarters of the workers in these jobs.

Across the income spectrum, the wage gap hurts women and families. But women in low-wage jobs can least afford it. They are already making do with less. They shouldn’t have to make do with pay discrimination too.

Mothers with children under 18 make up nearly one-quarter of these workers, although they make up just over 16 percent of workers overall.  In 2011, 40 percent of households with children under 18 had a mother as the primary breadwinner—and two-thirds of those households were led by single mothers with a median family income of just $23,000.  These hardworking breadwinner moms and their families deserve equal pay for equal work.

What should be done to end pay discrimination and close the wage gap? Ending the culture of pay secrecy would go a long way toward getting employers to stop paying women unequally, and to giving women a fighting chance at finding out when they are being paid less. As Justice Brandeis once said, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant."  President Obama just took a giant step forward by issuing the Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers for discussing their pay. And now it’s time for Congress to step up to the plate by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to provide the same protections to all private sector workers, and give workers better tools to fight back against pay discrimination.

*Wage gap figure does not include the wage gap among childcare workers as the sample of men working full time in this field is not large enough to permit the calculation.

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