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Women losing ever more pay as wage gap grows

Wage Gap Aviva 3 9
A demonstration on Equal Pay Day 2016 in Berlin. (BPW Germany)

On Thursday afternoon, International Women’s Day, female BBC employees stopped working. Bearing sheets of paper displaying equal signs, the journalists stood in front of London’s Broadcasting House and chanted: “Equal pay for equal work!” 

The women chose to stop working at 4:22 GMT because the moment falls 9 percent short of a standard 9-5 p.m. workday, the UK’s Daily News reported. Given the 9 percent gender pay gap at the outlet, 4:22 symbolizes when women employed by the BBC cease to be fairly compensated for their work.

Women at the BCC are not alone. The last decade saw the slowest progress on closing the gender wage gap in nearly 40 years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a Washington-based nonprofit that conducts and communicates research on the opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

“For all the talk about closing the gender wage gap, there has been far too little action among policymakers to seriously tackle a problem that is not only affecting the size of family paychecks, but is also dampening the growth of the economy,” said economist and IWPR President Heidi Hartmann in a statement. “As progress stagnates, we need to ramp up investment in policies that can close the wage gap, especially for women of color, such as access to good jobs, child care, and paid leave, along with reduced employment discrimination and the elimination of workplace harassment.”

The wage gap widened slightly over the course of the past year, says IWPR. In 2017, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings across wage and salary workers was 81.8 percent, compared to 81.9 percent in 2016. Calculated in median earnings, men took home $171 more per week than women in 2017, earning $941 compared to women’s $770.

Progress on closing the gender wage gap has slowed considerably over the past decade. The weekly median earnings gender gap narrowed by 2 percentage points from 2008-2017, compared to 3.9 percentage points in the 10 years prior, 1998-2007. The last ten years “saw the slowest rate of progress in narrowing the gender wage gap since 1979, when usual weekly earnings data were first collected,” according to IWPR.

Race was a significant determining factor in women’s relative earnings. Black women brought home just 68 percent of white men’s median weekly earnings, while Hispanic women earned just 62 percent.

According to the organization’s estimates, at the current rate it will take decadesand for women of color, centuriesfor the wage gap to close: “If the trend in closing the wage gap in annual earnings were to continue at the same rate as it has since 1985, it would take until 2059 for women to receive equal pay.

“For women of color, the rate of change is much slower: Hispanic women would not see equal pay with white men until 2233—216 years from now—while Black women would wait 107 years.”

Present at Thursday’s demonstration was former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie, who resigned from her job earlier this year over unequal pay.

“It's not about me, it's about sisterhood,” she told reporters after the crowd chanted her name in support.

The BBC is committed to closing the gender pay gap by 2020, which we’re already under way with addressing,” said a spokesperson when asked about the protest. While the BBC’s gender pay gap is around half the national average, we have a special role in representing Britain and are determined to lead the way.” 

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