Women’s Equal Pay Day: How far has Memphis come?

Push for equal pay in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - March 24 is Women’s Equal Pay Day.

According to the American Association of University Women, women working full time are paid 82 cents for every dollar a man is paid.

Memphis’ largest population is African American, and according to the 2019 census, 52% are women.

University of Memphis Associate Professor Elena Delavega researches poverty in Memphis. She says not much progress has been made to help minorities earn the same amount.

“The African American and Hispanic communities continue making about half than white communities,” said Delavega.

In Delavega’s 2020 Memphis poverty fact sheet you can see the white median household income makes $82,050 that number goes down to $39,766 for Black households and its $38,864 for Hispanic or Latino families.

Delavega says education is sometimes a factor but adds that affirmative action has had no impact in Memphis. She believes making salaries public can help level the playing field.

“Government jobs tend to close those disparities, why? Because salaries are published,” said Delavega.

Cindy Ettingoff CEO of Memphis Area Legal Services who was a former employment lawyer for 30 years agrees and says it’s difficult to prove the Equal Pay Act.

“If we can say your prior salary was less than this person, we paid them more because we had to pay more to get them or they had already been making more than you. Of course what that does is, it creates a cycle of being paid less,” said Ettingoff.

Ettingoff says the Paycheck Fairness Act which was introduced in 2019 will help stop that cycle because it prevents employers from asking what someone was making previously.

That bill was passed by the U.S. House and has been sitting in the senate since 2019.

Ettingoff says reaching out to Senators in your state can help move it forward.

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