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How Much Longer Before There Is Pay Equity For Women?

They work 73 extra days to earn what men earn in a year. Hawaii should take the lead in fighting this.

March 14 is National Equal Pay Day symbolizing how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Women work 73 extra days to earn what men earn in a year.

Women and their families have lived with pay inequity for decades. This pervasive inequity has a lifelong impact on future salaries and retirement lives. It persists across job categories and disciplines. We just learned that the U.S. Women’s soccer coach was paid a quarter of what the men’s coach earned in the last year.

Closer to home, women in Hawaii were making great strides in closing the gender pay gap with women earning 89.4 cents for every dollar that men made in 2019. Unfortunately, the gap has significantly increased recently.

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the gender pay gap has worsened in Hawaii. Women in Hawaii earned 79.4% of what non-Hispanic white men did in 2020 compared to 82.3% nationwide.

This makes us 37th among all states and the District of Columbia in income equality. The state’s ratio fell below 80% for the first time since 2011.

The decline may be partly due to the pandemic in Hawaii where a higher percentage of women left their jobs than did in most other states.

While the gender pay gap is found across ethnic/racial groups, age groups, educational groups and occupational groups, minority women experience larger pay gaps.

For example, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women who are full-time workers made 66% of what non-Hispanic white men who are full-time workers made in 2021.

The pay gap is not a “women’s” issue, it is a family issue penalizing the many households in Hawaii needing more than one paycheck. This disparity in pay penalizes children excessively, because many children reside in female-headed households.

Women and their families have lived with pay inequity for decades. (Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2018)

Hawaii need not accept this situation, but can be a leader in the field of pay equity. Passage of Act 108 in 2018, which prohibited employers from inquiring into salary history of potential hires, was a big step toward ensuring pay equity.

This year a new bill (Senate Bill 1057, Relating to Employment Earnings) being considered would increase pay transparency and provide a strong equal pay protection with a minimal cost or disruption to employers. This bill requires employers to make salary range information available to employees and job candidates.

Research shows that workers stay longer and are more productive when treated with dignity and respect.

A recent Harvard-Berkeley study showed that pay inequality decreased worker attendance, cooperation and output. According to a Forbes article, salary transparency and attempts at pay equity will attract millennials, and will be more attractive in a competitive market.

Being up front about wages saves businesses time and money so that they are not interviewing candidates who will eventually turn them down.

The pay gap is not a “women’s” issue.

In addition to fairness, this is also about efficiency. Salary ranges help employers manage their pay expenses and ensure pay equity among employees. It is critical that employers have rational explanations for why they pay their employees a certain rate, and defined salary ranges accomplish that.

As documented by the National Women’s Law Center, seven states (California, Washington, New York, Maryland, Nevada, Rhode Island and Connecticut) already have salary transparency as state laws.

We all want a workforce that is efficient, productive and motivated. We want to attract the best employees, increase commitment and decrease turnover.

We can’t achieve those goals unless we address pay equity. Surely, we have the will to do so.

It’s time for Hawaii to become a front-runner in pay equity and the next step is by assuring salary transparency.


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