"This is not a side issue. It goes to the heart of whether women and families are able to lead safe, healthy, fulfilling lives – and whether women’s labor is truly valued," Sheryl Sandberg wrote

By Joelle Goldstein
March 31, 2020 05:43 PM
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Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty ; Rachel Murray/Getty; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

It’s Equal Pay Day — and Sheryl Sandberg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kirsten Gillibrand are among those speaking out about the changes that need to be made for women in the workforce.

Sandberg, 50, marked the occasion with a lengthy post on her Facebook page, explaining how women deserved to be paid equally to their male counterparts and how it was especially crucial amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today is Equal Pay Day. It marks how long women must work into 2020 to catch up to what men earned in 2019 alone,” the Facebook COO wrote. “Women as a whole are paid less than men, and the gap widens even more for Black women, Latinas, and Native American women.”

“It adds up to thousands of dollars in lost income a year – and for some women, over a million dollars over a lifetime,” she continued. “It’s a reminder that inequality has concrete ramifications. It means women have less money for groceries, tuition, childcare, and so much else.”

“But Equal Pay Day feels even more urgent this year, because the COVID-19 pandemic is making it even clearer how the pay gap hurts women,” she added. “When women earn less, they are less protected during an economic crisis like this one.”

Sandberg went on to explain that women are currently more at risk of losing their jobs amid COVID-19 because “they’re over-represented in the low-wage workforce.”

She also noted that they typically work jobs that are at a “higher risk of layoffs and reduced hours,” such as child care providers, hotel clerks, house cleaners, and nail salon workers.

In the event women lose their jobs and file for unemployment, Sandberg explained they would receive less financial assistance because of their lower salaries and suffer from the loss of important benefits, such as paid sick or family leave.

“This crisis makes it even more important that we take note of this day – and recognize that the pay gap makes women and their families less secure, both in ordinary times and especially when disaster strikes,” she wrote. “This is not a side issue. It goes to the heart of whether women and families are able to lead safe, healthy, fulfilling lives – and whether women’s labor is truly valued.”

“We should put that question to rest forever, especially now, as so many women healthcare workers serve heroically at the frontlines. Enough is enough. It’s time to close the pay gap once and for all,” Sandberg concluded.

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On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez, 30, and Gillibrand, 53, also called on the country to take action and provide equal pay to women.

“The fact that we have a gender pay gap in 2020 is unacceptable,” Gillibrand, a former 2020 presidential candidate and U.S. Senator for New York, wrote in a tweet.

“It means that we still struggle to value women in this country—and women of color even more so. We need fundamental structural change to ensure women can make what they deserve. #EqualPayDay” she added.

In a tweet of her own, Ocasio-Cortez focused on closing the pay gap, specifically in relation to Latinas.

“Rent is due tomorrow for millions, but nearly 1 in 5 households have already experienced a coronavirus layoff or reduction in work hours. If we had #equalpay, Latinas would have an “extra” $28,000 from last year to each fall back on right now. #EqualPayDay” the congresswoman wrote, linking to a wage gap fact sheet from National Partnership of Women & Families.

Other leaders who observed the day and pushed for change on social media included New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City’s First Lady and Chair of NYC’s Mayor Fund Chirlane McCray, Speaker of the Maine House Sara Gideon, and Pennsylvania State Senator Lisa Boscola.

“The coronavirus pandemic is revealing the country’s economic inequity with painful contrasts, and women are disproportionately in industries affected the most. We can’t wait another forty years to close the wage gap—we can’t wait another day. #EqualPayDay” tweeted McCray, 65, who is married to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Added Gideon, 48: “Today is #EqualPayDay, which marks how far into the year the average woman must work to earn what men earned in 2019—and it takes even longer for Black, Native American, and Latinx women to earn what men make. ALL women deserve equal pay for equal work.”

Meanwhile, Boscola, 57, made her point through a visual that showed the wage gap and how it affected women of different races.

Jane O’Meara Sanders and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wives of 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and California Governor Gavin Newsom, also pushed for equality on their respective Twitter accounts.

In her tweet, Jane, 70, noted how the coronavirus pandemic “reveals the depths of our nation’s inequity” and said, “we must strive for bold, comprehensive policies… to create a more just society.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer, 45, spoke about the campaign she helped launch in 2019 aimed at closing the wage gap in California.

“The world is not what we would have imagined it to be a year ago, yet the work to ensure that women are paid equally has never been more important,” she wrote.

Women leaders weren’t the only ones speaking out on Equal Pay Day.

Former 2020 presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Texas Congressman Colin Allred also shared their thoughts on the wage gap on Twitter.

“We need to do better—and we can. It’s time to ensure every American woman is paid fairly. #EqualPayDay,” wrote Buttigieg, 38.

“Women should be paid what they rightfully deserve—a salary equal to that of their male coworkers. We must keep shining a light on this injustice until the wage gap is closed once and for all. #EqualPayDay” added Booker, 50.

Women who work full-time, year-round are typically paid 82 cents to every dollar that a man makes, according to a study from the National Women’s Law Center.

With those numbers in mind, women lose out on over $400,000 over a 40-year career in comparison to men, with that number rising to or surpassing $1 million for Black, Latina and Native American women, the center reported.

The length of time they’d have to work also drastically differs, ranging anywhere from an additional 25 to 33 years longer than men to close the lifetime wage gap, according to a 2019 report by the NWLC.

“In other words, Black women, Native American women, and Latinas must work well into their 80s or 90s to catch up to what a white, non-Hispanic man has made by age 60, delaying their retirement beyond their own life expectancy,” the report states. “Depending on the state in which she lives, some women of color must work past age 100 in order to catch up to white, non-Hispanic men.”