women underpaid
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signs his first Executive Order promoting equal pay for women on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Courtesy Edwin J. Torres/ Governor’s Office

By Jaimie Julia Winters

Depending on where you live in Montclair, if you’re a working women you make 18 percent or 27.3 percent less than your male counterparts, according to a new report released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The report uses the most recent census data from 2017, broken down by wages and congressional districts. Because Montclair is split into two congressional districts, the 10th and 11th, the wage gap reporting varies depending on where you live.

But data from the Census paints a more dire picture for Montclair’s gender gap numbers. According to figures on the Census American Fact Finder figures for 2016, the average Montclair male working full time made $105,219, while the average Montclair full-time working woman made $67,139, which is 63.8 percent of the median earnings of full-time year-round males. That puts that gap at 36.2 percent. For all Montclair workers — both part time and full time — the gender pay gap is 38 percent.

The two Congressional districts including Montclair are ranked sixth (District 10) and 11th (District 11) in New Jersey’s wage gap; women in those districts are paid 82 percent and 72.7 percent of what men are paid, respectively, according to the AAUW report.

Because the AAUW is suggesting that constituents contact their local congressman to lobby on federal equal pay legislation, the group broke up the data by districts.

The 11th district includes Montclair’s First Ward as well as parts of Bloomfield, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Livingston, North Caldwell, Nutley, Roseland, Verona, West Caldwell, parts West Orange in Essex County. The 10th district comprises Montclair’s Second, Third and Fourth wards, plus parts of Bloomfield, East Orange, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Maplewood, Newark, Orange, South Orange, parts of West Orange.

Democrat Donald Payne Jr. represents the 10th district, while retiring Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen represents the 11th district.

District 4, which includes Hamilton Township and Mercer County, had the largest wage gap (30 percent) of any congressional district, while District 9, which includes parts of Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties, had the lowest wage gap at 11.5 percent.

Throughout the U.S., the gender pay gap remains stuck at 20 cents on a dollar less, according to the AAUW.

Overall, the economic cost of this disparity totals an estimated $32.5 billion a year in lost wages and economic power. According to the National Women’s Law Center, a 20-year old woman beginning a full-time year-round position may lose $418,800 over a 40-year career in comparison to her male colleague. When that male colleague retires at age 60 after 40 years of work, the woman would have to work 10 more years — until age 70 — to close this lifetime wage gap.

The wage gap is worse for women of color and working mothers. African American women are paid 61 percent of what white men are paid, while Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander women are paid 59 percent, American Indian and Alaska Native women are paid 57 percent, and Hispanic women or Latinas are paid just 53 percent of what white men are paid, according to the report.

New Jersey’s wage gap is ranked 25th in the US, with women making 80 percent of what men are paid.

In 2017, median annual earnings for men in New Jersey were $64,497 compared to $51,538 for women — an earnings ratio of just 80 percent, or 25th out of all states and the District of Columbia, according to the most recent census data.

Although the Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex and has narrowed the gender pay gap, disparities still persist, according to AAUW. Two federal bills would ban employers from using salary history to determine future pay and another would curb occupational segregation.

States are working to enact their own legislation. The report rated New Jersey high in the number of laws supporting equal pay. Those laws include protections such as an equal pay or employment discrimination provision, cover all or most employees and include protected classes in addition to sex; prohibit retaliation/discrimination for taking legal action to secure equal pay or for discussing/disclosing wages; require employers to collect data on pay gap; narrow reasons employers can use to justify pay differences; and permit class action lawsuits or joined claims.

In July, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act took effect making New Jersey the leader in aggressive equal pay laws in the nation. It modifies current law, including the Law Against Discrimination, to make it illegal to pay women and minorities less in pay and benefits than they pay others doing similar work unless the company has a seniority or merit system.

Laws that the AAUW says are still needed in New Jersey include prohibiting the use of salary history in hiring; making salary ranges available; prohibiting job tracking based on sex; requiring companies to provide mechanisms to guide and enforce pay adjustments; creating a state advisory committee on pay equity; and sponsoring state education and training programs on salary negotiations.

Salary negotiations and raises continue to be obstacles for women, Montclair State University professor Yasemin Besen-Cassiono found in a Bureau of Labor Statistics longitudinal study going back as far as 1997. Her recently published book “The Cost of Being a Girl” reveals the gender wage gap affects earning power from early adolescence through adulthood decades later and has nothing to do with motherhood.

Montclair Women’s College Club President Barbara Ann Ellert said women need to speak up and ask more questions. Jobs that are credential-based such as in education also negate the gender gap she said.