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Martha E. Arterberry is a professor of psychology at Colby College and president of the Waterville branch of AAUW. Bets Brown is a retired research scientist from Colby College and past recipient of an AAUW fellowship.

March 14 is the national observance of Equal Pay Day. It is the day representing how far into 2023 women had to work to earn as much money as men earned in 2022. Women are paid, on average, 83 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid — a gap of 17 cents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2022, it took women 73 extra days to make up for that lost income. But women are not making up the gap. Rather, they are getting further behind because they will end 2023 behind men, just like they did in 2022.  

Pay disparity is not a new issue.  The Pay Equity Act of 1963 was designed to abolish the disparity in wages between men and women. At the current pace, the pay gap may not be closed for another 50 years.  

Because women make less than men over the course of their career, more women live in poverty and women have less money in retirement. In 2015, Maine had 83,000 single-parent households, many of which are headed by women, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Often these single parents do not get time off for parental care if children are not well, which leads in some cases to taking leave without pay.  

So how do women make progress?

One way is to raise the issue at your workplace. If your employer does not do a pay equity analysis based on gender, ask for one. And ask again (and again) if they do not comply. The slow progress in closing the gender pay gap is a sign of the resistance of companies to meet it head on. An important step is asking the question and reporting the results. 

In November 2019, Starbucks released its findings on pay equity. Starbucks found in its U.S. franchises, men and women were paid equally for the same work, and there were no differences in pay across different races and ethnicities.  CitiGroup also reported an analysis, with much less favorable findings (women made 29 percent less than men in 2019). This report highlighted the issue for CitiGroup, and by 2021 women were paid 99 percent of men.

A second way is for women to stand up for equal pay and for themselves. If a prospective employer cannot show that women and men are paid equally for the job you are seeking, it makes sense to look elsewhere. Positive signs include a hiring process that seeks diversity through affirmative action, written pay and benefit policies, job descriptions and evaluation procedures.

Also, always negotiate your starting salary when considering your job offer (over and above negotiating benefits). Women are less likely than men to negotiate, which often results in a lower salary compared with men in the same position.

Finally, if you have the option, join a union. Women in unions earn 40 percent more than women in workplaces that aren’t unionized.

Another way to close the pay gap is through federal legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. That is not a solution popular with employers, but it may be necessary. For employers who continue to pay women less, legal penalties or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission action may be the only remedies.

Finally, join national efforts to affect change. The American Association for University Women has been fighting for equity in the workplace since its beginnings. You can add your voice to the voices of more than 170,000 women and men in AAUW who want to make a difference. In Maine, you can join one of the four branches of AAUW, including Waterville, Penobscot Valley, Hancock County and Aroostook County. For more information, visit or email