Since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act officially became law, the wage gap has been narrowed significantly, but women still earn about 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. That gap results in the loss of $380,000 over a woman's career or roughly $150 less in her weekly paycheck.
For minority women, forever stuck on "pink-collar" jobs, the picture looks even grimmer: African American and Latina women earn about 70 and 60 cents on the dollar, respectively. Compounding the issue for women of color, when race, ethnicity and gender are combined, there is an increased rate of wage violations, where more women than men reported experiencing minimum wage violations, according to the recently released "Trabajadoras" report from The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).
Closing the wage gap is undoubtedly a pressing issue for women in general, and for women of color in particular, access to basic information about the pay gap only helps to make it worse. While exploring the factors causing it may be better left for a more in-depth article, I'd like to focus on one of the initiatives being put in place to educate and empower women on the issue.
Recently, I had the honor of being asked to become a judge on the Equal Pay App Challenge, a tech competition launched by the Department of Labor in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, with the objective to make labor data and other online resources readily accessible to the general public, to educate users about the pay gap and to build tools to promote equal pay. The contest, which has now concluded, urged developers of all backgrounds to submit their ideas and prototypes for interactive games, social or professional networks, or data visualization apps for internet browsers, smartphones, feature phones, or as native Windows or Macintosh applications.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who just announced this year's winners and has been the most enthusiastic supporter of this contest, said in a statement: "We had an enthusiastic response to the challenge and thanks to our winning applications, now anyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer can find tips on important salary topics from typical pay ranges, skill level requirements for certain jobs, how to negotiate salaries, and more."
The apps were to be evaluated based on three criteria: whether or not it addressed at least the goals defined for the challenge, how innovative and unique its presentation was, and lastly, whether the information was presented in an easy to understand format and appealing design. The challenge was designed to tap into the collective intelligence of the public at large to tackle the lack of awareness about the issue. The submissions ranged from straight-forward data-based apps to highly inventive, gaming-style ones, and while I had hoped to see more bilingual apps, it was refreshing to see so many excellent examples of productivity and innovation: crowd-sourcing at its best.
With many women, and especially minorities, having limited access to resources and information about Equal Pay - whether due to lack of awareness, lack of experience, economic barriers or a pervasive digital gap - has made finding a real solution for the wage gap a very elusive task. The high penetration of cell phones, especially within the Latino community, make these apps a welcome tool for helping to bring much needed resources and counsel right into the hands of those who need it most.
As with anything in life, the first steps towards any kind of empowerment are always awareness and education. Providing women with the means to understand the nature of the wage gap, to accurately learn what a competitive and fair wage based on their job category and location and to negotiate what is rightfully theirs are all crucial aspects of ending gender-based pay discrimination.
From me, and from all the women who will benefit from having these tools at their fingertips, I extend warm congratulations and thanks to the winners of the Challenge: Aequitas, Close The Wage Gap, the Gender Gap App, and Demand Equal Pay For Women.
Representatives from the Equal Pay Task Force as well as some of the contest judges [myself included] will be participating in a Twitter chat with Labor Secretary Solis on Friday, April 20th, at 12pm EDT to discuss the App Challenge and the winning apps, using hashtag #EqualPayChat. I hope you can join the discussion!
What do you think about these new Equal Pay apps? Do you think they will help women as they fight for Equal Pay? Let us know in the comments!