COLUMBUS – It’s Equal Pay Day, an observance that symbolizes how far into 2016 women have to work to catch up to the wages men earned in 2015.

Despite more than five decades of federal law prohibiting gender-based wage discrimination, said Beth Morrow Lonn, chief grants and operating officer for the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, women in the United States earn about 79 cents for every dollar men are paid. She said the gap is even larger for women of color.

“African-American women actually are earning about 65 percent of what a man is earning, and then for Latino women it’s 55 cents, so you can see that it’s bad,” she said, “but then when you break it down by race, it’s even worse.”

Less pay means less money to pay for food, housing and transportation, Lonn said, which impacts all sorts of Ohio families.

“If you look at how many women are single head of households, what that means for them in terms of them being able to meet the needs of their families,” she said. “And families that actually have two earners, they’re still not receiving what they could if everyone was receiving 100 percent of pay.”

The gender wage gap exists in nearly every occupation, and Lonn noted that it doesn’t change as a woman moves up in her career. She added that education is not a “silver bullet.”

“We have found that as a woman and a man have increased educational levels, the gap actually gets wider,” she said, “so that a woman with a graduate-level degree is actually making 67 cents on the dollar.”

According to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center, an Ohio woman loses about $423,000 over her lifetime because of inequities in pay. Today, Ohioans from all walks of life are encouraged to wear red to symbolize that women’s wages are “in the red.”

Pay inequities can cost an Ohio woman more than $423,000 in lost wages over a 40-year career. inequities can cost an Ohio woman more than $423,000 in lost wages over a 40-year career.

By Mary Kuhlman

Ohio News Connection