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Why We Need to Celebrate Equal Pay Day

author image Laura Hertzfeld
Laura Hertzfeld has reported on entertainment, business, and lifestyle topics at a variety of outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, Tablet, and NPR.  She holds a degree in history from Barnard College, Columbia University.
Why We Need to Celebrate Equal Pay Day
Equal Pay Day acknowledges the disparity in pay that women face across industries. Photo Credit: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Twenty percent. It’s what you add on to your dinner bill if you’re feeling generous. It’s how many young people identify as LGBTQ. It’s how much less beef Americans are eating to stay health conscious. But, shockingly, it’s also still the differential between how much women and men are paid.

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Tuesday, April 4 is Equal Pay Day, a holiday that acknowledges the disparity in take-home pay that women face across industries. It seems shocking that women only make 80 cents for every dollar a man earns; in 1960, women earned 60 percent of what men earned. You'd think we'd have done better in the more than half century since.

So why celebrate a pretty sad statistic? To raise awareness.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s advocacy group is encouraging businesses to give women 20 percent off on April 4, saying that they should spend 20 percent less since they make 20 percent less. Over 300 stores in 25 cities have signed on to the #20percentcounts campaign so far, including national brands like Lyft and Luna Bar.

The day — April 4 — is symbolic because it’s just over 20 percent of the way into the year, when women finally make up the amount they lose out on working from January 1 to April 4.

On average, women make about 22 percent less than men doing the same work, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Sandberg told USA Today that women of color are even worse off: Black women earn 37 percent less and Hispanic women 46 percent less.

“We have to understand that the pay gap is happening to women and men with similar jobs that require similar skills and similar educational levels — and that has a real impact," Sandberg told the paper. She also noted that the number of working women living in poverty would be cut in half if women were paid the same as men, meaning this is an issue that touches on public health issues as well.

The #20percentcounts campaign is growing. Luna Bar even filmed a TV spot with "Jane the Virgin" star Gina Rodriguez to promote Equal Pay Day.

So take a Lyft, give the extra 20 percent tip you're saving to your driver, share your thoughts on the wage gap while you're cruising along, and consider taking action locally by researching the issue, working with elected officials in your area, or starting a women's networking group at your office to work towards making the workplace a more equal environment.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you feel that women and men are paid equally in your workplace? Have you personally experienced the wage gap? Will the #20percentcampaign be successful at raising awareness? Share your thoughts.

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