THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY
Excerpts from The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap – 2020 Update from American Association of University Women (AAUW)
The Coronavirus pandemic’s disproportionate economic toll on women, most notably women of color, will have economic ramifications for years— compounding the inequities of the existing gender wage gap. Since the start of the pandemic, more women than men have lost jobs, largely because so many women work in industries that have shrunk in 2020, such as the restaurant, retail, hotel and travel sectors. The challenges of caretaking—exacerbated by virtual schooling, closed daycare centers and isolated seniors—have taken a significant toll on the work life of many women. With women still shouldering the bulk of domestic responsibilities, many have no option other than to reduce their work hours, put off advancement opportunities or quit their jobs altogether. Because time out of the workforce affects lifetime earnings, and many employers still erroneously rely on previous wages to set salaries, the impact is likely to compound the gender and racial wage gaps, which are persistent contributors to economic inequity.
Pay inequity is a structural problem that demands structural solutions. Policymakers and employers must take the lead in closing the wage gap.
State and federal efforts to eliminate the use of salary history in the hiring process are working: Employers in states with a salary history ban are advertising salaries more, and workers who changed jobs in these states saw significant increases in average pay compared to similar workers in states without bans. Moreover, those increases were driven by Black workers and women who changed jobs. Given these compelling findings, legislators should continue to enact such bans and employers should take this important action on their own.
Dr. Bly Jones suggests that “employers can become champions of pay equity by conducting regular pay audits and post salary ranges for jobs. We know that most employers want to be an employer of choice, but if our society is going to move towards economic security for all, it sometimes has to be accelerated with legislation.”
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ “Economic Access” legislative initiative has been signed into law by Governor Pritzker. SB 1480 also requires employers to obtain an Equal Pay Certificate that shows the pay for female and minority employees is not consistently below that of male and non-minority employees.
“Covid-19 brought to light the many disparities that exist in our society. Establishing a culture of equity begins with examining data within structures and systems and intentionally choosing a place to start to reduce the identified gaps. In this moment, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m proud to be an Illinoisan woman,” said Dr. Bly-Jones.