Unequal Pay: Gender Discrimination In the Workplace

Statistics Show That Women Frequently Earn Less

Woman looking at paychecks to determine if she has unequal pay as a woman

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The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it a federal requirement that pay scales for identical work be the same regardless of whether the employee doing the labor is male or female. If a woman works the same hours, performs the same tasks, and is required to meet the same goals as her male counterpart, she is entitled to equal pay.

When women are paid less because of their gender, it is a form of sex discrimination and is illegal.

Key Takeaways

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay men and women differently if they're doing identical work.
  • Women still earn less than men, with women making 83 cents for every dollar a man makes.
  • Wyoming has the highest pay gap and Vermont has the lowest.
  • If you are experiencing unequal pay, you can make a report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The following statistics show how women are often underpaid in the United States.

Women Earn Less Than Men Across the Board

  • A woman working full-time on average earns 83 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women's median annual earnings are more than $10,000 less than men's.
  • Meanwhile, the pay gap is larger for women of color as Black women make 63 cents and Latinx women make 58 cents. Asian women made 93 cents while White women made 80 cents. 


While progress has been made toward pay parity between the sexes over the past 55 years, it will take 132 more years to close the global pay gap at this rate.

  • Women must work three months longer on average to equal what men earned in a year. For mothers, women of color, and LGBTQ+ women, it takes even longer.
  • A common argument is that women choose jobs that just inherently pay less. But even if men and women were equal parts of each occupation, that would only close the pay gap by 32%.

What Pay Inequity Looks Like at Highest and Lowest

  • Most states have implemented laws against gender discrimination, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects women at the federal level even though disparities persist.
  • In Wyoming, for instance, the gender pay gap is $21,676, the largest wage gap in the nation.
  • Vermont has the smallest pay gap, with full-time, year-round working women making $46,641 on average to a man's $51,241, a difference of $4,600.

The Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act does not mandate that jobs held by men and women must be identical for purposes of receiving the same pay, but that they should be "substantially equal"—which is the government's way of saying that each performs much of the same duties regardless of job title.


Employers are not permitted to equalize pay in the face of a complaint by reducing the wages or salary of the higher-paid employee. 

The Equal Pay Act does permit aggrieved workers to take their complaints up directly with the state or federal court system without having to first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who do you call when there's unfair pay in the workplace?

If you're experiencing unequal pay, you can call the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Your state may also have an equal pay law and state-level resources.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Equal Pay Compensation/Discrimination."

  2. United States Census Bureau. "What Is the Gender Wage Gap in Your State?"

  3. Institute for Women's Policy Research. "Gender Wage Gaps Remain Wide in Year Two of the Pandemic."

  4. World Economic Forum. "Global Gender Gap Report 2022."

  5. AAUW. "Equal Pay Day Calendar."

  6. Economic Policy Institute. "'Women’s Work' and the Gender Pay Gap."

  7. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

  8. AAUW. "The Fight for Pay Equity: A Federal Road Map." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  9. U.S. Equal Employment Commission. "Equal Pay/Compensation Discrimination."

  10. AAUW. "What to Do If You Suspect Pay Discrimination."

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