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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows for 2023 Equal Pay Day and Women’s History Month

For over a quarter century, Equal Pay Day has served as a symbolic reminder of a real and persistent problem.  The National Committee on Pay Equity organized the first Equal Pay Day observance on April 11, 1996, which represented how far into the year women needed to work—at that time, over four months—in order to be paid what men had made the prior year. The idea was to raise public awareness around equal pay through the quantitative and potent symbol of time.

This year, we mark Equal Pay Day on March 14, 2023—almost a month earlier than we did back in 1996.  While we have gradually chipped away at the gender pay gap, we still have significant work to do.  Women who work full time are paid on average only about 84 cents on every dollar paid to men.  And the pay gap is even wider for some women of color, mothers, and LGBTQI+ workers when compared to what white men make.  That means we are deep into the calendar year by the time we mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in July, even deeper into the year for Latinas’ Equal Pay Day in October, and deeper still for Native Women’s Equal Pay Day in November.

Equal Pay Day takes place during the broader context of Women’s History Month, when we celebrate women’s contributions to our national story and reaffirm our collective commitment to advancing rights and opportunities for women.  Unfortunately, women’s individual stories have often included the reality that their contributions have been undervalued, underpaid, and overlooked.  Pay discrimination is a stark example of that reality—as illustrated in the EEOC’s recent cases against Dell computers and Jerry’s Chevrolet.  In EEOC v. Dell, Inc., the EEOC alleged that the computer company paid Kea Golden, an information technology (IT) systems analyst with 24 years of experience in IT, $17,510 less per year than a male coworker who was hired at the same time and did the same work.  Dell agreed to pay $75,000 in monetary relief to Golden, provide specialized training on equal pay laws, and post a notice of employees’ rights to equal pay.  In EEOC v. Jerry’s Chevrolet Inc., the EEOC alleged that a family of auto dealerships in Baltimore paid dispatcher Jessica Dotterweich hundreds of dollars less each month than a male dispatcher performing equal work and then fired her after she complained.  In addition to providing $62,500 in monetary relief to Dotterweich, the company agreed to adopt policies of equal pay for equal work and train its managers and supervisors on preventing sex-based wage discrimination.

Occupational segregation and other forms of sex discrimination also contribute to pay inequality.  Women—and particularly women of color—are consistently overrepresented in employment sectors that require demanding work, but offer low wages, limited opportunity for professional growth, and few benefits.  And when women do forge a path in higher-paying fields and industries where they are underrepresented, such as in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), construction, or manufacturing, they may face unequal treatment or a hostile work environment.  When a woman is paid less than a man for doing the same work, given fewer hours, denied opportunities for advancement, or forced to leave her job because of harassment, it affects not only her weekly paycheck, but also her long-term economic security.  For example, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated that a “30-year-old apprentice pushed out of her union apprenticeship into a non-union job in another field faces financial costs of more than a million dollars over her lifetime.”

Japlan “Jazz” Allen, a 21-year member of Ironworker’s Union Local 1 in Chicago, testified before the Commission last May about the impact of disparate work hours on women in the construction trades.  She explained that her career in the trades “offers me and my family the economic security that comes with an Ironworker’s wage of $54.83 per hour, and a benefits package of an additional $55/hour which pays for full health coverage and contributes to my pension.” But for too many women in construction, unequal treatment in hiring, layoffs, and assignments “means you’re not getting enough hours for the high hourly wage to translate into the good annual income it promises.  It also means you’re not banking enough hours to build your pension benefits.”

This Equal Pay Day and throughout Women’s History Month, we recognize the unsung heroes who advance equality every day in ways big and small.  They are women like Allen who built a successful career as an ironworker against the odds, and who helps other women join and thrive in construction through Chicago Women in Trades.  They include Golden and Dotterweich who challenged unfair pay at work and changed their workplaces for the better.  And they are women like Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Assistant Professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who led the National Institutes of Health team that developed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.  In reflecting on women’s contributions in STEM fields and her own role as an African American female scientist, she noted:

We have a long way to go. There’s a pay gap. There are consistent ideas about certain fields, particularly ones that are more technical, like STEM. People consider them to be sometimes too hard for women to take on. We definitely have a long way to go culturally in the way that we accept women into the STEM fields. But we’ve come far. I feel more welcome today as a woman in [the] STEM field, in one of the best universities in the world at Harvard, than I have ever felt in my entire career.

We join Dr. Corbett and so many trailblazers before her in celebrating how far we’ve come and recognizing the work that still needs to be done.  Progress is both necessary and entirely possible, and at the EEOC we will continue to do our part to ensure that women and all workers are treated fairly at work, including in their paychecks.

Charlotte A. Burrows (she/her/hers)


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission