National Equal Pay Day is designated on a Tuesday each April to remind people that on the time line of a pay period that starts on Monday, women's wages do not catch up to men's pay, from Monday through Friday, until the following Tuesday. This means that on average, female employees have to work more than six days to earn what men earn in five days. This demonstrates the underlying trend that female workers earn about 80% of what men earn for comparable positions and work, which is blatant gender discrimination.
The disparity between male and female compensation is not as stark in the
public sector as it is in the private sector. A recent study conducted
by the Government Accountability Office concluded that women who worked
in Federal government positions have improved their relative position
vis a vis their male counterparts in recent years, to the tune of earning
89% of what male employees earn (compared with 72% approximately 20 years
ago). Providing for considerations of women choosing less lucrative positions
and taking more time out from employment, this study reported that women
actually earn 93% of men's earnings, implying that their "catch-up
clock" actually rang on Monday at 2pm, as opposed to their privately
employed female counterparts.
The report emphasized two factors that have helped spur women's gains (1) the characteristics of the female employment pool, including educational advances which now closely resemble those of me and (2) changes in the occupational mix including less female employees working in clerical positions than 20 years ago.
The discrepancy between the gaps in private and public earnings may suggest that hiring and promotion policies play an important role in this outcome. Whereas it is not the case in private employment, job descriptions are more standardized for government employment and pay scales are a matter of public record.