Women and Unequal Pay Throughout History

The two words of “women” and “equal” have not been put together until the past few decades. Pay inequality in the workforce is something that women today are still battling to gain respect for. Since the late 1800s, Americans have been battling the pay gap between men and women in the workforce. Why is this still an issue today?


One of the first attempts to address the way women were being treated in a work environment started with a resolution to ensure equal pay for those who work in government positions. It passed the House of Representatives but was severely edited by the time it passed in 1870.

Then in 1883, Western Union Telegraph Company went on strike to bring awareness to the pay gap issue which was ultimately unsuccessful. The turn of the century was proving to be a time for when this issue was beginning to be brought into the light. New York state worked to give their teachers equal pay and the U.S. Employment Service created a list of jobs that were suitable for women while the men geared their efforts towards the war.

The Equal Pay Law, signed into law by John F. Kennedy, was passed in 1963 which was a major success despite business leaders who thought that women workers were more expensive than males. Kennedy deemed this law to be a step in the right direction and that, "It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes."


Even with enormous progress throughout history, women in the workforce are still fighting against discrimination surrounding their pay. One factor that many believe add fuel to the issue is potential employers asking what an interviewee’s previous pay was. This only continues that pattern of keeping women lower in pay. A Glassdoor survey concluded that 60 percent of women want employers to stop asking about their previous salary. Many believe that the value of an employee is not based upon their previous salary. It is suggested by Dawn Lyon, Glassdoor chief equal pay advocate, that when asked about the previous salary, to re-angle your answer to focus on an employee's value and skill set and not the price of it.

Multiple states and cities within the United States have begun banning the question in interviews. New York City, Philadelphia, and even the state of Massachusetts has passed a law restricting employers to ask about salary history.

This will be continuing battle for women to tighten the pay gap between men. It has taken decades to get to this point and will continue to be an issue unless a piece of legislation is created to protect women and their value.