The issue of pay equity, being discussed in this year’s presidential campaign, is relevant in New Jersey, where data shows women continue to earn less than men regardless of the specific wage measure.
There are numerous statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and all show the same thing: men in New Jersey make more than women statewide and in almost every county. According to an analysis of data from the 2014 ACS:
The data bears out results of several other national studies.
One, from the National Women’s Law Center, found that the average American woman makes more than $430,000 less over a 40-year career than a man. In New Jersey, that gap is even worse: $477,000. Nationally and in New Jersey, women of color face even wider wage gaps when compared with white males.
Another, from the American Association of University Women, showed New Jersey women working full-time faring only slightly better than the national average and doing worse than all neighboring states except for Pennsylvania. In New York, full-time women earn 87 percent of their male counterparts’ paychecks.
One reason often given for the gap is that women take time off from work to have children and are usually the primary caregivers and so may put advancement aside while raising their families.
The issue has come up numerous times in the current presidential campaign. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has made closing the pay gap one of her goals and supports the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would block employers from firing or retaliating against workers who ask what colleagues make and would require all companies to analyze their compensation practices to determine if women are getting a fair wage. Republican nominee Donald Trump does not address the issue on his website and, after once supporting equal pay for equal work, more recently dismissed the idea of a pay gap, although his daughter told the GOP convention last month that she would fight with him for equal pay and other women’s rights.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie last May conditionally vetoed a bill, A-2750/S-992, that would have strengthened protections against employment discrimination and promoted equal pay for women.
Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio, D-Mercer, a co-sponsor of that bill, said she and other lawmakers need to continue to fight against wage discrimination.
“It’s been over 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by John F. Kennedy,” she said. “While there has been significant narrowing of the 40-cent pay gap that existed in the early 1960’s, women still make approximately 80 cents on the dollar compared to men…. We must continue to put forth legislation that addresses all of the issues that are holding our women back from reaching the top of the pay scales and earning the wages they deserve.”
In New Jersey, the gap has been narrowing. For all men and women, it has improved from women getting 66 percent of men’s pay in 2005 to almost 69 percent in 2014. For full-timers, women now earn 80 percent of men, compared with 76 percent a decade earlier. And for those age 25 and older, it has improved from 65 percent to 71 percent.
Carol Cohen, president of the AAUW-NJ, said it’s important to work with girls before they graduate from college and even younger to get them to advocate for themselves and for equal pay. The AAUW has several programs doing just that.
“We are trying just to open the girls’ eyes,” she said. “We are going to keep working at it.”
In order to truly change the numbers, men are going to have to get on board, she said.
“AAUW’s philosophy of feminism is that it is only going to work when we get more male feminists,” Cohen said. “We are not trying to make women better than men. We just want them to see that everyone should have their fair share.”