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Women and the Missing 23 Cents

Company, ValuesDeirdre HusseyComment

Women are almost half America’s workforce, so why do they take home 77 cents to every dollar men earn?


Work doesn’t have a gender. Why should pay?

On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the historic Equal Pay Act (EPA) as a step toward abolishing gender-based pay decimation. “When women enter the labor force,” he said. “They will find equality in their pay envelopes.” Postage stamps cost a nickel that summer, rotary-dial phones were standard ­– and American women earned 59 cents for every dollar paid to men.

That pay gap may have narrowed over the last 51 years. But only slightly. Today, the average full-time working American woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man collects. Women earn less than men in each of the nation’s 20 most common occupations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Men also out earn women in 101 of the 112 occupations for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes weekly full-time earnings data, reports the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWRP).

Boiled down, gender-based inequality in pay translates to a 38 percent lifetime earning difference between women and men in the United States.


Stepping toward change.

This isn’t to say the past half-century hasn’t shown signs of progress. It has. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, requiring employers to pay men and women equal wages for doing equal work, protects both sexes from gender-based pay discrimination. The EPA also applies to other forms of compensation: including vacation time, profit-sharing, and bonuses.

But still the wage gap remains, and still men outearn women. More evidence that progress needs revving up: not only has the pay gap NOT shrunk over the last decade, it actually widened in 2012 (before inching down to 2005 levels). At this creeping rate, it will take another 44 years– or until 2058– for American women to reach pay equity, according to IWPR projects.

The bottom line: there’s more work to be done.


50/50 since day one.

Companies, brands, and employers have a specific responsibility to this issue. Equal opportunity means equal pay. We consider it a fundamental right at Gap Inc. –and have since our beginnings in 1969.  

Forty-five years ago, Doris Fisher put up half the money to open a small retail store in San Francisco. Her husband, Don, put up the other half. That store — truly a 50/50 partnership — became The Gap.  

Beginning with that partnership in 1969, equality is embedded in our DNA. Todaywe pay women and men dollar for dollar, on average, across the global organization.

As the company has grown, so has our commitment to those ideals. Gap Inc. is rooted  with a culture of female empowerment, succession, and mentoring.

Today, the workforce at Gap Inc. is 73% women — and a place where both genders earn equal pay for equal work.

At Gap Inc., employees are paid for the work they do, not who they are. 

"It's not like one day, this company decided, ‘We want to be good to women.' " said Sheila Peters, a Gap Inc. Senior Vice President who has been with the company from nearly the start. “Strong, talented women came here, and that set the stage for more accomplished women to join and flourish. And before we knew it, we’re more than 70 percent women. I don’t have to think about my career as a woman – I am just a person. And that’s a gift. I know it is.”