Today is Equal Pay Day, and to mark the occasion, the Women's Fund of Miami-Dade is highlighting an eye-opening finding from recent research: If working women in Florida were paid the same as comparable men in their field, the number of women living in poverty in the Sunshine State would drop by 50 percent.
"If we could get companies to step up, have the conversation, and commit to paying equally, half of the problem would go away," says Janet Altman, board chair of the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade. "We find that to be a really powerful thing that we can work on."
The finding comes from a study the group helped to fund that looked at the economic status of women across Florida. The study concludes poverty is a persistent problem for women, especially women of color. More than 15 percent of women live in poverty, putting the Sunshine State among the bottom third in the nation. In Miami-Dade, the rate is even higher: 20 percent.
But if women were paid the same as men who are the same age, have the same level of education, work the same number of hours, and have the same urban/rural status, the poverty rate among all working women would fall by about 57 percent, from 8.2 percent to 3.5 percent. For working single mothers, the change would be even more dramatic: Their poverty rate would fall from 23.1 percent to 9.5 percent, the study shows.
"It's an enormous impact that could be created by bringing these women up to where they need to be," Altman says.
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This summer, the Women's Fund of Miami-Dade is launching a program aimed at addressing the wage gap. The group plans to advocate for equal pay, create toolkits people can bring to their companies, and celebrate the organizations that already pay equally regardless of gender.
Altman says equitable pay is one of the most important issues the group can tackle.
"When you think about the janitor who cleans your office or the barista who makes your latte or the aide who helps your mother-in-law who may not be able to easily take care of her family and is really struggling with that, you recognize that these people are all around us," she says. "And it's just not right."